Citrix Scores a Coup–CloudStack to Become Cloud Platform of the Apache Foundation

[Addendum - I knew about this announcement a week ago. Out of respect for those who briefed me on it under embargo I have decided to hold to the embargo despite others decisions not to do so. Personally I feel that breaking embargos is bad form at best, unethical at worst. But maybe that’s just me]

Citrix is this morning announcing that CloudStack, the Cloud operating system it acquired a year or so ago from Cloud.com, is being elevated into a full open stack project and is being picked up to become the cloud platform of the Apache foundation. Alongside this announcement, CloudStack is aligning itself strongly with Amazon Web Services as the default standard and will be 100% compatible with the AWS APIs. I spoke with Peder Ulander from CloudStack announcement to get some extra color on what is a fairly seismic announcement for the cloud ecosystem.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Citrix and Cloud.com where founding members of OpenStack (disclosure, I curate the CloudU vendor-neutral cloud education program which is sponsored by Rackspace, one of the founders of OpenStack). Only eight months ago, after the acquisition of Cloud.com by Citrix was announced, the then Chief Cloud Architect from Citrix, Christian Reilly posted about Citrix’s plans with regards the OpenStack community talking up the ongoing commitment to the project. Now, little more than half a year later, Citrix rocks the community by very publicly announcing a move that in essence suggests the open source cloud solution of choice lies elsewhere. This also gives CloudStack a huge vote of confidence, by becoming a platinum member of the Apache Foundation, they are being anointed by the same foundation that gave us projects like Hadoop, Cassandra and TomCat.

Citrix isn’t pulling any punches. When talking about the benefits of this move, it articulates four key points some of which are also subtle jabs at OpenStack;

  • Designed from the ground up with a true Amazon-style architecture
  • Proven at scale in real production clouds
  • Complete interoperability and portability of workloads, including 100% compatibility with the Amazon cloud
  • Full commitment to openness and open source

So does this mark the end of a Citrix involvement with OpenStack? Ulander was quick to throw out a few placatory statements saying that “…this isn’t us [CloudStack] versus OpenStack, it’s us versus VMware”. However the tone of the release, comments about ecosystem demands for maturity today and questions about the OpenStack foundation model all suggest that CloudStack sees the future in one direction only, and that is outside of the OpenStack fold. While they’re still a part of the initiative in terms of contributing virtualization and networking resource and consuming components “as they are mature and production ready”, it’s probably fair to say that there’s not going to be much love going on between the two.

It needs to be remembered that, while OpenStack has had some challenges in terms of ensuring consistency and non-fragmentation while still allowing innovation to bloom, the OpenStack initiative has got massive momentum and support from the community. HP and Dell in particular are two names who have really bet the house on OpenStack letting them build credible cloud offerings to compete with the likes of Amazon and using OpenStack to be able to get to market in months instead of years.

I quizzed Ulander about the moves to make CloudStack 100% compatible with the AWS APIs.  Ulander explained that the CloudStack API is broader than the AWS API but is 100% compatible with it allowing organizations to port workloads between Amazon, CloudStack and any other Clouds built upon Apache CloudStack. The announcement does certainly strengthen the claims that many in the cloud community have been voicing strongly that the AWS API should be regarded very much as the quasi-standard across all cloud approaches.

Readers will recall that only a couple of weeks ago Eucalyptus was anointed by AWS as the first private cloud provider to be sanctioned to use the AWS APIs;

….an agreement that enables customers to more efficiently migrate workloads between their existing data centers and AWS while using the same management tools and skills across both environments. As part of this agreement, AWS will support Eucalyptus as they continue to extend compatibility with AWS APIs and customer use cases. Customers can run applications in their existing datacenters that are compatible with popular Amazon Web Services such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).

I was interested to know the Amazon perspective on the deal and was told that they know about and support the move but have not specifically sanctioned the move. Ulander was keen to point out that in announcing the Eucalptus deal, AWS pointed out that it was not an exclusive deal – no doubt Citrix is hoping that they too will be anointed similarly over time. The fact that AWS have not yet sanctioned the CloudStack move point out just how much of a coup Eucalyptus CEO Marten Mickos scored with the announcement.

This story would appear to be resonating with the ecosystem, the list of partners that have signed on to join the ecosystem is wide and includes some interesting names – Equinix, Intel, RightScale and SoftLayer. Whether that is a function of disquiet amongst the OpenStack ranks, or merely a case of vendors positioning to be part of anything that looks like it might stick is a difficult assessment to make. That said, it will be interesting to see how Citrix’s clear move away from OpenStack, and the strong support they seem to have from the ecosystem impacts upon OpenStack. Watch this space.

MyPOV Overall

This announcement is big for CloudStack, the Apache link up gives it some real credibility in the open source community. Alongside that the move to push the AWS compatibility features gives those looking to move to Zynga-like hybrid models a high degree of flexibility. They’ve built an ecosystem and some impressive names are signing up to the initiative, but signing up names is the easy part, we all know that vendors will sign up to anything just to be seen to have a “seat at the table”. It can’t be overlooked that despite a few well publicized stumbles, OpenStack has really built a large degree of momentum and at this stage really is the open source cloud stack of choice with some production deployments actually happening.

It has to be said that having Eucalyptus pull the rug from under them and be anointed as the first AWS sanctioned private cloud provider must have seriously hurt inside Casa Citrix – how a multi billion dollar company lets a small newcomer get to that position first is something of a mystery and possibly begs some questions about Citrix’s commitment to the cause – perhaps the Euca deal gave them the shock they needed to double down and start delivering on this stuff.

Add in to the mix the other open source providers like OpenNimbus and Nebula and we can see a very interesting trend towards open source in the cloud world. Whether there will be one stack that finally reigns supreme, or whether a number of different stacks will compete successfully remains to be seen.

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