There are many ways to run Cloud Foundry. When you search for articles on getting started, you usually find them tailored for 2 camps of people:
Developers: Articles of this pedigree typically focus on how to get a minimal "development environment" running, and how to get an application deployed on the platform in question. A great way for a developer to get started using Cloud Foundry is to deploy it on their own computer using bosh-lite
Infrastructure: There is a lot of content out there that helps you deploy Cloud Foundry for Production use. Options include large "behind-the-firewall" offerings like vCenter and Openstack, as well as outwardly hosted offerings like Amazon Web Services (AWS).
While this covers a large group of people, there is one group (of which I am a part) that seems to be overlooked. It is kind of hard to describe, so let me list my requirements instead:
I want to run Cloud Foundry on something that I can keep running all the time - so I don't want to shut it down when I close my laptop.
I want to run a small, fairly non-critical application (such as a blog) long-term, so I can get a feel for how to run this platform. I don't just want to deploy an application - I want to know how Cloud Foundry works. How can I break it? What disk locations fill up over time? What happens when the cloud controller, gorouter, dea, or other part dies... and how do I recover from it? Also - How do I back things up and restore them?
Knowing these requirements, let us look at our possible solutions:
vSphere: I love vSphere Hypervisor. It is easy to install and easy to use. And it's free!
If you've played around with BOSH and vSphere though, you were probably as crestfallen as I was when I realized: you can only point it at vCenter, not ESXi.
Well - you have a couple of options. First - If you just need to run Cloud Foundry for a short while, you can just sign up for a 60 day trial license on VMware's site.
If you need to run something longer term, there is a very inexpensive option for folks who want to run Cloud Foundry on vCenter: vCenter Essentials. You can get it from the VMware Store for less than $600. This gets you a license to use their vCenter Virtual Appliance, PLUS you have enough licenses for 3 hosts. To be clear - you don't even need Essentials Plus. This option is also wonderful for small to medium organizations looking to run a few applications.
If your budget is REALLY tight... you can actually run bosh-lite on ESXi Free Edition!
OpenStack/KVM: OpenStack is an Open Source Infrastructure as a Service platform that you can run yourself. Fair warning - it has historically been a very involved process, usually taking a couple days to set up. To make things a bit quicker, the folks at Red Hat have set up their own installer that works great on their operating systems (I've used it on Fedora 20 with no problems). Go to http://openstack.redhat.com/ for more details.
Amazon Web Services (AWS): Finally, you can run Cloud Foundry on AWS. For a small fee, Amazon will let you run on their massively distributed infrastructure. When running on AWS, just make sure you take the possible fees into account. Not only are there fees for compute time, you can also rack up a bill in data transfers. If properly sized and used, AWS can be a very cost effective way to go.
So, whether you are a small company writing apps, a hobbyist, or even a closet Open Source guy with a Fedora box hidden in your cubicle - there is no excuse to NOT get started playing with Cloud Foundry.