The rock star who helped invent Amazon Web Services just joined a company called Pivotal

Benjamin black

Pivotal has just hired engineer Benjamin Black — the regular Amazon employee who co-wrote the paper that would become cloud titan Amazon Web Services all the way back in 2003.

Black most recently worked at Microsoft, where he helped build Office 365, its answer to Google Apps, and prior to that founded a startup called Boundary, which monitored computer networks. Data Center Knowledge first reported the news.

Black becomes the third such cloud pioneer to join Pivotal recently, joining OpenStack co-founder Joshua McKenty and Puppet Labs co-founder Andrew Shafer.

These are important people in the world of cloud computing — a major movement that is reshaping how companies spend money on technology.

OpenStack is the four-and-a-half year old open source cloud project that took the basic concept behind Amazon’s cloud computing technology and made it available to anybody. It was started by Rackspace and NASA, and includes huge enterprise companies like HP and Cisco among its contributors.

Puppet is one of two companies (along with Chef) at the forefront of a movement called “DevOps,” which makes it easier for the people who develop software to run the operations necessary to support that software, rather than relying on the IT department to do it.

So what’s so exciting about Pivotal that it’s attracting this kind of talent?

Simply put, Pivotal is letting these cloud computing stars tackle a new and interesting challenge — how to deal with tremendous amounts of data generated by things like people clicking through web sites, or sensors in millions of devices.

Pivotal, which was spun out from data storage giant EMC and its subsidiary VMware, makes tools to build applications that make sense quickly of massive amounts of data. Cisco, Southwest Airlines, and Netflix are all Pivotal customers.

Pivotal is perhaps best known for shepherding the Cloud Foundry open source platform-as-a-service, which helps speed up application development and deployment. Cloud Foundry is popular enough that in addition to Pivotal’s own Pivotal CF offering, IBM built its own version (“distribution,” in open source parlance) of Cloud Foundry for its BlueMix service, and HP did the same with its Helion cloud.

Recently, Pivotal announced that it was releasing its suite of big data-crunching tools (including Pivotal HD, its version of Hadoop) to the open source world, allowing anybody to build on them. At the same time, Pivotal revealed a partnership with major big data player Hortonworks and opened the gates to an industry association — the Open Data Foundation.

For his part, Black is going to Pivotal to work on internet-of-things projects, according to Data Center Knowledge, which broke the news. The internet of things is a catchphrase for millions of connected devices, which generate their own deluge of data, and Pivotal wants to help companies process it.

This also speaks to why Pivotal is experiencing this momentum. Bolstered by the leadership of CEO Paul Maritz — formerly CEO of VMware, and before that a top leader at Microsoft — and an executive team of EMC Greenplum big data veterans, is trying to position itself as the company actually helping other companies do cool things with huge amounts of data.

Obviously, it’s making a solid case, if hotshot technologists are joining in threes.

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