Citrix Shakes Up Cloud With Split From OpenStack

Citrix roiled the cloud market this week by withdrawing its OpenStack open-source cloud distribution and moving its CloudStack software platform to the Apache Software Foundation, which in turn gives Citrix and its customers greater access to Amazon Web Services.

The move was seen by some as undercutting OpenStack, the open-source, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, cloud computing project co-founded by Rackspace, and strengthening Rackspace rival, Amazon. It also set off much discussion on whether the OpenStack cloud model has been dealt a serious blow and whether Amazon will dominate the cloud scene.

CloudStack will support Amazon's APIs (application programming interfaces) that are crucial in creating cloud programs that help companies migrate their systems to the cloud. ’The proposed Apache CloudStack project will make it easier for customers of all types to deliver cloud services on a platform that is open, powerful, flexible and ’Proven Amazon Compatible,’" Citrix said.

More than 50 independent software vendors, providers and technology partners joined Citrix in moving away from OpenStack, among them, Alcatel-Lucent, Big Switch Networks, Brocade, BT, ExtremeNetworks, Intel, Juniper Networks, and Tata Communications

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While some analysts said OpenStack and, by extension, Rackspace, will be damaged by the move, others said having two open-source platforms will create competition and strengthen cloud development. Several said OpenStack had become slow to respond to companies seeking to develop cloud programs.

’This is an important move in the evolution of cloud APIs,’ said Al Hilwa, program director for Applications Development Software with IDC. ’The Apache Software Foundation is a highly respected organization that is looked up to by many developers, ISVs and enterprises for key functionality before adoption choices are made.’

Hilwa and others said having Apache Software Foundation as a stronger open-source competitor will be healthy for both groups.

’It is a big win for Citrix to be able to grab that mantle and it creates an element of competition between cloud API players,’ he said. ’The reality is both sides have supporters and are pushing ahead in terms of technical maturity. The ball is now in Rackspace’s court which might find that it has to further democratize the way it evolves OpenStack. I think more choice is a win for customers and the ecosystem overall, and for the movement of cloud platforms forward."

Next: Citrix Makes Plans For Partners

Peder Ulander, vice president of cloud platforms at Citrix, in an interview Wednesday, said its partners will reap greater business benefits with the move, a prediction with which one partner agrees.

’Citrix is unbelievably channel friendly, and many of our partners prefer to have the ability to engage with open-source products and align with Amazon compatibility,’ he said. ’The partners are getting requests from their customers, saying, ’I want to be in a private cloud and I want compatibility with Amazon, and I want open source.' The other reason partners like open source is because it lets them overcome high cost barriers to entry.’

Hugo Perez, managing partner at Datacorp, a Miami, Fla.-based Citrix partner specializing in consulting, integration, and managed support services, and which has just launched its own cloud service called Cloud VDX, said Citrix’s alignment with Apache Software Foundation and Amazon is a powerful combination and will improve business for cloud solution providers.

’It’s foolish not to take advantage of a revenue stream,’ Perez said. ’I intend to take advantage of this relationship.’

Citrix’s Ulander said the company plans more cloud programs for channel partners. The next initiative, he said, ’will have a strong focus on a cloud administration program for getting customers into the cloud with compatibility with Amazon.’