Storm brewing in cloud ecosystem?

Citrix offers CloudStack to Apache Foundation

Chris Mayer

Citrix’s open source move with CloudStack could make it a cloud infrastructure juggernaut, but where does it leave OpenStack?

There were big ruptures across the open source landscape yesterday, as virtualisation heavyweight Citrix revealed that it had donated their platform CloudStack to the open source foundation Apache, which has gone straight into the Apache Incubator

For those unitiated in CloudStack, this move will essentially allow enterprises and service providers, to create cloud infrastructures, that bare resemblence to Amazon Web Services. CloudStack is quite advanced too, offering hosted public and private clouds (and the bridge between them) as well as on-premise private clouds, all with an air of relative simplicity when creating the infrastructure.

It’s a pretty monumental announcement for both parties, given that this is the first cloud platform of its kind to make its way over to the huge open source foundation. The goal in sight for Citrix seems clear – to assume mass adoption and follow the path of recent Apache converts Hadoop and Cassandra to assume dominance within the burgeoning cloud infrastructure field.

The Fall 2011 Forrsights Hardware Survey shows that about 36% of enterprise IT leaders are prioritizing and planning to invest in IaaS this year. They want a ready-built solution now to integrate into their workplace and don’t want to dally about with it. Whilst CloudStack shows promise, it needs that extra push and guidance to truly become ubiquituous. By letting Apache become a steward, it’s highly likely that CloudStack will gain the mass adoption that it craves.

Not that they don’t already have a good steady following. CloudStack will bring 30,000 community members to Apache, according to Citrix as well as certified apps and production clouds. All of which generate something to the tune of a $1bn. Alongside that, Citrix will become a platinum member of Apache alongside fellow luminaries like Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and Microsoft. Not bad company to be in at all.

However, there is still something that needs to be cleared up. Citrix have said that they will create a commercially-viable version of Apache CloudStack as a sort of overload to its cloud offering. But issues arise when you realise that CloudStack was borne out of open source version OpenStack, which has been in limbo since Citrix’s money-generating aspirations took centre stage.

A lot of the codebase crosses over from the two and it was difficult for enterprises to firmly back CloudStack when it wasn’t clear whether OpenStack was part of CloudStack or the two were separate entities. Fears appear to have been allayed here as vendors won’t have to migrate to OpenStack in the future after it has been kicked to the kerb. There were concerns that OpenStack’s code wasn’t maturing at a rate acceptable enough for a commercial offering and by shifting to Apache, it could really progress with their leadership.

In fact, an OpenStack release is due tomorrow with Essex arriving, which many expected to be the first commercially friendly version. Not so. Admittedly, a fiercely unpopular decision to shift away from OpenStack politically, but it was always on the cards since Citrix acquired last year and put the code under a GNU GPL v3 license. Whilst CloudStack is now under the preferred Apache 2.0 license, Citrix had already set their stall out.

Sameer Dholakia, Citrix’s general manager of cloud platforms, announced:

While other vendors will attempt to add cloud-like management layers to their existing proprietary datacenter virtualization products, we believe the biggest winners in the Cloud Era will be clouds built on a platform that is designed from the ground up with a true Amazon-style architecture, proven at scale in real production clouds, compatible with the Amazon architecture and fully committed to open source.

With the significant momentum CloudStack has gained over the past year, it is the only cloud platform on the market that even comes close to meeting these requirements. This move will position CloudStack to become the de facto industry standard platform for cloud computing.”

RedMonk co-founder Stephen O’Grady believes it is a key moment saying: 

Whether it’s enterprises building internal private clouds or managed service providers adding cloud services, interest in cloud stacks is growing by the day. CloudStack’s unique combination of an Apache-licensed open source project offering Amazon compatibility is likely to pique the interest of partners and customers alike.”

The Amazon hook-up is definitely the clincher for enterprises here, and even though this move may displease some, we expect CloudStack to become a huge player for IaaS now this move has been made. And if you didn’t already think Apache was at the epicentre of cloud, then think again.

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