Related topics

Citrix champions CloudStack, throws OpenStack under a bus

'Project Olympus is dead' - fabric rivalry begins

If you have been wondering how Citrix Systems was going to juggle two different cloud fabrics in its product line – its own open-source CloudStack and a commercialized variant of the similarly open-source OpenStack project started by NASA and Rackspace Hosting – you can stop wondering.

Because Citrix isn't going to juggle at all. In fact, Citrix is putting its full weight behind CloudStack and submitting it to the Apache Software Foundation as an official incubator project – and therefore an alternative to OpenStack.

"Project Olympus is dead," explained Sameer Dholakia, general manager of cloud platforms at Citrix, in a conference call with journalists.

His comments mark the ascendency of CloudStack and the cessation of the development effort that the company initiated last May to bring a version of the OpenStack cloud fabric to market, tuned to run with Citrix' XenServer hypervisor and backed by commercial support from Citrix.

The software company had also said it planned to support Microsoft's Hyper-V and VMware's ESXi hypervisors with Project Olympus, and it is significant that it was Citrix that brought support for Xen and ESXi to the open-source OpenStack variant.

Project Olympus was set to be available sometime in the second half of 2011, but in July last year, a funny thing happened: Citrix bought Cloud.com, a cloud service provider that had created its own cloud fabric. Cloud.com came out of stealth mode in May 2010 as it was raising its second round of venture funding; it was previously known as VMOps and was founded by Sheng Liang, a hotshot coder from Sun Microsystems who was the lead developer for the Java Virtual Machine.

Like rival Eucalyptus Systems, Cloud.com was founded on an open-core philosophy, meaning that the core of the cloud controller is open-source code backed up by a community of developers, but proprietary extensions that add functions to the core product are available only to customers paying for support contracts and software licenses for those extensions. Both Eucalyptus and Cloud.com are also fervent believers that to be a cloud means adhering to and cloning the set of management APIs that Amazon Web Services has created for its compute and storage clouds.

This latter fact seems to have been a bone of contention between Citrix and the rest of the OpenStack community, which, as Peder Ulander, chief marketing officer at Cloud.com, pointed out is "explicitly trying to develop a new API set" and that this, in the long run as far as Citrix is concerned, is not a good strategy.

"It is our laser focus to make sure that VMware does not dominate the private cloud market with its proprietary approach," explained Ulander. And that means backing the Amazon APIs and, in essence, creating an open-source alternative to VMware's vCloud add-ons for its ESXi hypervisor. And, if you think about it, creating another dominant force that all of the cloud fabric controllers have to hew to – which may or may not be a better thing in the long run. (Who is more open, VMware or Amazon? Tough call, ain't it?)

The moment Citrix fell out of love with OpenStack

Back in August, the handwriting was on the wall for Project Olympus when Citrix took all of the CloudStack 2.2.10 source code completely open under a GNU GPL v3 license. About 98 per cent of the CloudStack code was already opened up before this point, excepting the enterprise converters Cloud.com had written to plug into VMware hypervisors and management tools, Cisco Systems servers and their Unified Computing System management tools, and NetApp storage appliances.

The Amazon API issue was not the only sticking point with OpenStack, according to Dholakia. "This is indeed a departure from our previous build-on plan for OpenStack," he elaborated. "Based on challenges of the technical maturity with OpenStack and where we were at with CloudStack, that became a path not viable."

Citrix figures that CloudStack is better and has been tested at scale running in real clouds – which is more than you can say about OpenStack at this point. By submitting CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation's incubator program, it can get a boost and give the CloudStack a good home. Starting today, the CloudStack 3.0 source code is being relicensed under the much more friendly Apache 2.0 license and all future development will be done under that license, not GPL v3.

Citrix remains committed to keeping CloudStack completely open source, says Dholakia, and is eager to bring the 30,000 CloudStack community members under the rainbow feather. "This is where open standards live," said Dholakia. "And when we say open, we mean open community and open source."

Dholakia says that as best as he can figure, Amazon Web Services has revenue stream that adds up to over $1bn. (This is consistent with El Reg's own estimates.) The revenue stream that companies are deriving from the services and applications they provide on top of AWS is considerably larger, of course, and it is hard to estimate the multiple.

While Dholakia was not about to reveal the revenue stream internally at Citrix from CloudStack, he did say that Citrix now has over 100 customers using the cloud fabric in production (including BT, Engine Yard, and Korea Telecom as flagship customers) and dozens of customers that have deployed the open source version and are supporting themselves and participating in the community. Collectively, these clouds running atop CloudStack generate more than $1bn in revenue for their companies, according to Citrix.

Citrix says that it will continue to work with the OpenStack community in many areas, and in fact, CloudStack supports the "Swift" object storage cloud software that is one of the five key components of OpenStack. "We fully expect a lot of cross-pollination between these two projects," said Dholakia.

In the meantime, Citrix will continue to sell commercial support for CloudStack at the same prices it has been peddling. The company is also dedicating more engineering resources to the CloudStack project and has created a seven-figure marketing budget to get the word out about CloudStack. ®

Sponsored: Designing and building an open ITOA architecture