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Citrix Dumps OpenStack for Amazon-Style CloudStack

Citrix turned heads Tuesday when it announced it's contributing the CloudStack cloud management platform it acquired last summer from Cloud.com to the Apache Software Foundation with plans to release its own version of that distribution as the focal point of its cloud infrastructure offering.

The bombshell announcement didn't have to state the obvious: Citrix is dumping its previously planned support for OpenStack, the popular open source cloud management effort led by NASA and Rackspace. While Citrix didn't entirely rule out working with OpenStack in the future, there appears to be no love lost on Citrix's part.

While the announcement didn't even mention OpenStack, Peder Ulander, vice president of marketing for Citrix's cloud platforms group said in an e-mailed statement that OpenStack was not ready for major cloud implementations, a charge that OpenStack officials refuted.

"Our initial plan was to build on top of the OpenStack platform, adopting key components over time as it matured," Ulander noted. "While we remain supportive of the intent behind OpenStack and will continue to integrate any appropriate technologies into our own products as they mature, we have been disappointed with the rate of progress OpenStack has made over the past year and no longer believe we can afford to bet our cloud strategy on its success."

So where does OpenStack fall short? The biggest problem is proven scale in production, Ulander said. "It's been a full year since we first joined OpenStack, and they still don't have a single customer in production," he said. "Despite all the good intentions, the fact remains that it is not ready for prime time. During the same year, CloudStack has seen hundreds of customers go into full production. These customers include some of the biggest brands in the world, collectively generating over $1 billion in cloud revenue today. No other platform comes close."

Jonathan Bryce, chairman of the OpenStack Project Policy Board and co-founder Rackspace Cloud, told me Tuesday that's simply not true. OpenStack has a number of customers in production such as Deutsch Telecom, the San Diego Supercomputing Center and MercadoLibre, a large e-commerce site in Buenos Aires that runs about 7,000 virtual machines on OpenStack. "We've got a broad range of users," Bryce said.

Another reason Citrix decided to focus on CloudStack was its compatibility with Amazon Web Services APIs. "Every customer building a new cloud service today wants some level of compatibility with Amazon," Ulander noted. "Unfortunately, the leaders of OpenStack have decided to focus their energy on establishing an entirely new set of APIs with no assurance of Amazon compatibility (not surprising, since OpenStack is run by Rackspace, an avowed Amazon competitor). We do not believe this approach is in the best interest of the industry and would rather focus all our attention on delivering a platform that is 'Proven Amazon Compatible.'"

But in his most stinging rebuke of OpenStack, Ulander questioned whether it will adhere to true open source principles. "Rather than build OpenStack in a truly open fashion, Rackspace has decided to create a 'pay-to-play' foundation that favors corporate investment and sponsorship to lead governance, rather than developer contributions," he said. "We believe this approach taints the openness of the program, resulting in decisions driven by the internal vendor strategies, rather than what's best for customers."

When I asked Bryce about Ulander's "pay-to-play" charge, he said the process to move stewardship from the auspices of Rackspace to an independent foundation is moving along and will be completed this year. Bryce denied any notion that OpenStack had a "pay for play" model.

"That's just false," Bryce said. "If you look at the process, look at how many contributors there are to the projects. "We are far and away the most inclusive in terms of the number of companies and the number of contributors who are making code submissions. We have large and small startups and big enterprise software companies who are all actively engaged in OpenStack."

But some say OpenStack is still immature relative to CloudStack. Gartner analyst Lydia Leong described it in a blog post as "unstable and buggy and far from feature complete." By comparison, she noted, CloudStack is, at this point in its evolution, a solid product -- it's production-stable and relatively turnkey, comparable to VMware's vCloud Director (some providers who have lab-tested both even claim stability and ease of implementation are better than vCD)."

Forrester analyst James Staten agreed adding that OpenStack, appeared to be a drag on Citrix. "Ever since Citrix joined OpenStack its core technology has been in somewhat of a limbo state," Staten said in a blog post. "The code in cloudstack.org overlaps with a lot of the OpenStack code base and Citrix's official stance had been that when OpenStack was ready, it would incorporate it. This made it hard for a service provider or enterprise to bet on CloudStack today, under fear that they would have to migrate to OpenStack over time. That might still happen, as Citrix has kept the pledge to incorporate OpenStack software if and when the time is right but they are clearly betting their fortunes on cloudstack.org's success."

Timing was clearly an issue, he pointed out. "For a company that needs revenue now and has a more mature solution, a break away from OpenStack, while politically unpopular, is clearly the right business decision."

Despite Citrix's decision to pull the rug out from OpenStack, Bryce shrugged it off, at least in his response to my questions. "I don't by any means think that it's the death knell for OpenStack or anything like that," Bryce said. "I think the Apache Software Foundation is a great place to run open source projects and we will keep working with the CloudStack software wherever it makes sense."

When it comes to open source cloud computing platforms, OpenStack continues to have the momentum with well over 155 sponsors and 55 active contributors and adopters including AT&T, (Ubunto distributor) Canonical , Cisco, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Opscode and RightScale.

Analysts say Citrix had good business reasons for shifting its focus on CloudStack. Among them, Gartner analyst Leong noted was despite effectively giving away most of its CloudStack IP, it should help boost sales of its XenServer, "plus Citrix will continue to provide commercial support for CloudStack," she noted. "They rightfully see VMware as the enemy, so explicitly embracing the Amazon ecosystem makes a lot of sense."

Do you think it makes sense? Drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/04/2012 at 1:14 PM


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