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Citrix preps own version of OpenStack

Mounting Project Olympus

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Citrix has announced that it will offer its own version of OpenStack, the open source "infrastructure cloud" platform originally created by NASA and Rackspace.

On Tuesday, during a conference with reporters, Citrix chief marketing officer Wes Wasson said that the company would be a "flag bearer" for the OpenStack project and that the cloud building platform set loose by NASA and Rackspace last July would be a key part of a future product it's developing under the code-name "Project Olympus". Citrix is being a bit vague on the details, but Project Olympus will weave a "cloud optimized" version of the XenServer server virtualization hypervisor together with a "Citrix-certified" version of the OpenStack cloud controller fabric.

Presumably, it will not be open source – though the company has yet to repsond to our questions on the matter.

Citrix said that it plans to also support Microsoft's Hyper-V and VMware ESXi hypervisors with Project Olympus, just as it does with its XenDesktop virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) tools. Presumably, Citrix will do tweaks and tucks that give XenServer the edge over Hyper-V and ESXi and make Project Olympus appealing to service providers building public infrastructure clouds as well as companies that want to build their own private clouds.

The company was responsible for adding both Xen and VMware hypervisor code to the OpenStack project.

Citrix is hoping to couple the enthusiasm for OpenStack –which is supported by over 60 IT companies and other organizations like NASA that want a cloud fabric with open APIs and open source code alike – to the widespread adoption of Xen among cloud providers. As Citrix is keen on reminding everyone that Amazon Web Services, the juggernaut of the public cloud with its EC2 and related cloud services, has used a modified version of Xen at the heart of the its public cloud.

What Citrix never gets around to saying is that Amazon doesn't actually use the same XenServer hypervisor that the rest of us can, although Amazon and Citrix agreed to work on interoperability issues for their respective Xens earlier this year. It stands to reason that the Project Olympus code will support the management APIs created by Amazon for EC2, as does the open-core Eucalyptus cloud framework, steered by Eucalyptus Systems and apparently used in 25,000 clouds.

The news of Project Olympus might be giving you déjà vu, or a sense of confusion at the very least. Back in August 2009, the open source Xen project that controls the development of the hypervisor announced the Xen Cloud Platform, which you might be thinking was a cloud fabric. Actually, the Xen Cloud Platform merely dealt with virtualizing the infrastructure in a cloud and did not include tools for creating, provisioning, monitoring, or managing a cloud. The Xen project suggested Eucalyptus or OpenNebula at the time, and if the Xen Cloud Platform was being launched today, OpenStack would be at the top of the suggested cloud fabric controller list.

Project Olympus is also not to be confused with Citrix Cloud Center (C3), which was formerly known as XenServer Cloud Edition and which, when it started shipping a few years ago, bundled up the NetScaler application acceleration appliance and now includes XenDesktop and XenApp. The C3 stack is priced with a mix of per-user and per-VM license fees and is sold only to service providers. Sometime in the summer of 2010, Citrix started calling it OpenCloud, just to confuse everyone, and it was still not clear what in the stack was doing the server VM management and provisioning.

Hopefully, with Project Olympus, Citrix will make all of the components clear and sell the same set of tools for either private or public clouds and with similar pricing.

Citrix had better learn the lesson from Eucalyptus Systems, which has had some of the air let out of it by OpenStack, that being fully open source matters to service providers and government agencies. This might mean open sourcing storage management and image management features of XenServer and Lab Manager, the VM jukeboxing tool that Citrix bought last August to better compete with rival VMware.

Wasson said that Project Olympus would go into immediate early availability for selected customers through Dell and Rackspace, who are making the code available for proof-of-concepts and backing it up with tech support. Project Olympus will be generally available sometime in the second half of this year. Feeds, speeds, functions, and pricing were not announced. ®

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