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Rackspace to Citrix on CloudStack: What Were You Thinking?

There is some really bad blood between executives at Rackspace and Citrix and the result is two fragmented open source Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) compute platform efforts. Perhaps it's not surprising that Rackspace felt jilted by Citrix's decision to abandon its commitment to the Rackspace-founded OpenStack project in favor of its newly acquired CloudStack platform, but the fur was flying at this week's Cloud Expo and the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) Forecast 2012 conference in New York.

Rackspace CTO John Engates, who is the company's cloud computing evangelist, aired his disdain for Citrix's move (which was underway for some time but became official in April) during a keynote address at the ODCA conference Tuesday. "I don't know what Citrix was thinking when they moved away from OpenStack because OpenStack had all the momentum in the world," Engates said in response to a question about the matter.

The OpenStack Project, developed by Rackspace and NASA (the latter of which apparently is now moving some of the space agency's cloud compute to Amazon Web Services), kicked off nearly two years ago and has since been backed by 180 companies including AT&T, Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel and Red Hat. HP in particular is basing its new HP Cloud service on OpenStack. Despite the momentum of OpenStack, critics complained that the platform has evolved slowly, as has the open source governance model.

Yet Engates suggested that Citrix made a short-term bet that acquiring Cloud.com last year and deciding to base its cloud-compute architecture on CloudStack rather than stick with its earlier plan to use the OpenStack Nova compute engine would be a quicker path to revenue, given the evolution of the two.

"I think, and this is just my opinion, they didn't make the right choice," Engates said. "They should have stuck with us, they should have combined efforts instead of fragmenting. They did make the choice that they made and we'll see what happens."

In a keynote address at Cloud Expo on Wednesday, Sameer Dholakia, group VP and general manager of Citrix cloud platforms group, acknowledged the rumblings from the OpenStack camp and explained why Citrix decided to decamp from OpenStack and push forward with CloudStack.

"We did an assessment a little over a year ago, that where we were with the OpenStack project was at least a year-and-a-half away from being ready for prime time and in production," he said. "And we needed to be in market providing our customers answers and competing with other vendors in the market like VMware that had vCloud out there. And so we decided that we had to move faster than the community could create. So we made the acquisition of cloud.com."

In response to Engates' charges that they should have combined efforts, Dholakia said they tried for over six months to find a way to bring CloudStack and the Nova compute engine of OpenStack together.

"We had the sincerest of efforts to try to bring these two things together," he said. "We simply weren't able to get there. I wish we were able to get there but we weren't. It certainly wasn't for a lack of trying. But I will tell you that the cloud really is now. People are building clouds today. They need software with which they could go build those real clouds and put into production today."

Dholakia said there are more than 100 clouds powered by CloudStack including those run by telecom giant BT, GoDaddy, Zynga and Samsung. In an effort to illustrate why OpenStack wasn't ready for prime time and CloudStack was, Dholakia said that Samsung had spent more than a year trying to build a cloud infrastructure on OpenStack to support a service for its chat and messaging services. Samsung had "an army of developers" that were unable to get OpenStack into production. "They called us and within two weeks had a proof of concept running and it's now in production and deployed," Dholakia explained.

Citrix's decision to contribute CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation has further boosted its cache. Another factor that gives it appeal is the fact that it supports Amazon's APIs. Indeed, in conversations with various stakeholders at Cloud Expo this week, the sentiment generally was that the CloudStack compute platform was more ready for prime time than OpenStack, but the latter had more under its belt with the Swift block storage architecture. Moreover, the work on OpenStack Quantum, the networking project in which Cisco is lending a major hand, also has a lot of promise.

Yet many that have initially backed OpenStack have jumped on the CloudStack bandwagon. One such example is Dallas-based SoftLayer, a cloud provider with 13 datacenters worldwide, 100,000 servers and $400 million in revenues, which this week launched a private cloud service that will be based on CloudStack.

SoftLayer CTO Duke Skarda told me when the company decided to build its private cloud service it considered Eucalyptus, CloudStack, OpenStack, VMware's vSphere, Nimbula and Microsoft. In the end it came down to CloudStack and Eucalyptus, which also now supports Amazon's APIs.

"Ultimately we went with CloudStack. Of all of those it's probably the most mature," Skarda said. "CloudStack has the maturity, a suite of tools and great support behind it in Citrix. that's the reason we've deployed them. Using Citrix's CloudBridge, it could extend clouds in customers' datacenters to its own," he added.

Also an OpenStack backer, Skarda said it is using the OpenStack Swift object store for storage. Asked how he sees the feud between the two compute camps playing out, Skarda said it looks like there will be fragmentation for some time to come. "Right now it doesn't look like there's a path for them to come together," he said. "Over time, the fact that CloudStack is part of Apache certainly lends it a lot of credibility, but OpenStack has a huge momentum behind it. But right now it seems like there's a fragmented market coming."

Certainly, this is not the first time we've seen fragmented computing efforts. Remember the Unix wars with Solaris, AIX, HP/UX and other instances? And of course, as Linux matured, many wondered if having multiple distributions would lead to fragmentation. It certainly hasn't been a cakewalk, adding to the mix other broadly deployed platforms, notably Windows.

Do you think OpenStack and CloudStack need to come together? Or will they and all the various other alternatives offer customers the options they need to push forward with their cloud computing initiatives?

Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com or leave a comment below.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/15/2012 at 1:14 PM


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Reader Comments:

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 Chuck S

Not sure I can blame Citrix. I see that OpenStack has lots of buzz but where are the real production deployments? Citrix spent a few hundred million and they want to get moving now. Seems like a solid business reason. The more choice the better.

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 Tim Wessels Somewhere in the cloud...

Well, I think Mr. Engates from Rackpace should take a deep breath and relax. Look, Citrix spent $200M on Cloud.com last April and they needed to make a decision about their go-to-market "cloudstack" for cloud building. They tried to make it work by combining CloudStack and OpenStack and it didn't work out the way they hoped. There are approx. 36 "cloudstacks" out there right now and not all of them will survive the cut in terms of commercial success. Citrix felt it needed to bust a move and CloudStack was ready to roll. Turning the governance of CloudStack to the Apache Foundation is something of a risk for Citrix if they can't attract interest in the project. OpenStack will do just fine and a number of commercial OpenStack implementations will likely make the cut. Citrix needed to make a business decision and they did.

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