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July 12, 2011 / Simon Crosby

The Silver Lining for Citrix, Cloud.com and OpenStack

American poet Don Marquis once said that “Every cloud has its silver lining but it is sometimes a little difficult to get it to the mint”.  This has certainly been true for so-called cloud infrastructure vendors – those crafting the orchestration and management functions that are required to turn a large number of servers, storage and networking gear, and a hypervisor, into a scalable, elastic Infrastructure as a Service fabric.   VMware dominates the enterprise server virtualization market (which is aspiring to cloud-dom), and service providers have been slow to ramp up alternative service offerings to vCloud.  But today’s announcement by Citrix that it is acquiring cloud.com is a significant shot in the arm for the Citrix cloud effort, as well as for the OpenStack community at large.

Those who follow the so-called “clouderati” on twitter will be quick to realize that Citrix has in one fell-swoop acquired the leading independent cloud orchestration stack, cloud.com’s customers, including Zynga, Korea Telecom, Edmunds.com and many others (for which typically XenServer is the preferred hypervisor, but not exclusively so), the “cloud.com” domain name, a great leadership team, and (as the cherry on the top) Christian Reilly, until recently chief architect at Bechtel, and latterly of cloud.com, and now taking on the role of steering the Citrix cloud architecture and strategy.

The last year has seen an almost meteoric rise in the fortunes of OpenStack, as it has emerged as the only viable alternative to proprietary products such as VMware’s vCloud.  The latter has grown up from an enterprise pedigree, and is in many ways ill suited to the task of delivering low-cost, massively scalable Infrastructure as a Service.  By contrast, the cloud.com CloudStack product has shown itself in large production environments such as Zynga’s private / hybrid cloud, to scale superbly, and at very low cost – leveraging any (though typically free: XenServer/Hyper-V) hypervisor or even doing bare metal provisioning for large web 2.0 style clouds.  Cloud.com is to be congratulated for forging a hard earned reputation for delivering a highly scalable product to customers whose entire business depends on it.    If CloudStack fails, Frontierville fails.  And yet, everyone knows that the future for proprietary cloud stacks looks rather bleak, given the enormous industry focus on developing a community owned, massively scalable open source cloud stack – OpenStack.  Cloud.com was therefore quick to jump aboard the OpenStack community development model, and has led some of the key contributions to OpenStack, including support for Hyper-V.  Citrix can use the cloud.com acquisition to accelerate its own Project Olympus, which will be OpenStack based, and in so doing it can offer existing cloud.com customers a roadmap that is far richer than could ever be created by a single vendor following its own development path.   Future versions of CloudStack (or whatever it ends up being called) will be able to scale better and offer a far richer networking model, storage infrastructure and so on, courtesy of the incredible contributions being made by over 50 vendors to OpenStack.  At the same time, the acquisition is a major shot in the arm for the OpenStack community, who will be able to benefit from a substantially beefed-up development effort at Citrix, and from the oversight of Ewan Mellor (OpenStack Archecture Board Member, Xen god, and developer of the OpenStack ESX support) and Christian Reilly.

The Citrix cloud business will now report to Sameer Dholakia, who joined Citrix with the acquisition of VMLogix about a year ago.  He’s off to a great start!

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