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Citrix ditches OpenStack for Apache

Citrix is giving its cloud deployment platform an Apache license, marking a migration away from the evolving OpenStack project and an embrace of Amazon Web Services offerings.

CloudStack is a platform for building public or private cloud deployments that Citrix acquired last year when it purchased Cloud.com. Citrix has been one of the more than 150 companies contributing to the OpenStack project, which is an open-source project dedicated to building clouds. Today, however, Citrix announced that it is giving CloudStack an Apache license, effectively creating a competing model for open source cloud deployments.

Citrix officials said the move was made because it needs a model that fully embraces Amazon Web Service compatibility - which it says OpenStack does not do - and because it wanted to bring cloud development offerings to market as soon as possible. With an Apache license, CloudStack will now be an open source project, backed by a community of developers who will provide input and recommend changes to the software.

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During a conference call discussing the embargoed news on Monday, officials at Citrix said their cloud development platform needs four qualities: It must be designed from the ground up for the cloud; it must have proven ability to scale in real production environments; it must be compatible with Amazon Web Services offerings, and it must be open source.

Working within the parameters of the OpenStack project did not meet those criteria, says Sameer Dholakia, Group vice president and general manager of Cloud Platforms for Citrix. The OpenStack platform, he says, does not fully embrace Amazon's Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) offerings, nor has it been proven in the market yet. So, Citrix officials wanted to create their own ecosystem of developers that would help advance the open source cloud development model with those qualities in mind.

"Based on challenges of the technical maturity and where we are with CloudStack, (OpenStack) became a path not viable," he says. "The reason we have taken this approach of doubling down on CloudStack, is that we are very much looking for a market solution today."

Citrix has been one of more than 150 companies that have backed the OpenStack project, which was started two years ago by NASA and Rackspace. Dholakia says Citrix will still be involved with the OpenStack project and will use and contribute code to the project where applicable with the CloudStack platform.

The news of Citrix migrating away from OpenStack also comes a few weeks after Amazon Web Services announced a partnership with Eucalyptus, which is an open-source private cloud development model. AWS announced that it would work with Eucalyptus by sharing its APIs, to make connections between Eucalyptus private clouds and AWS's public clouds easier. Citrix officials say they have a "great relationship" with Amazon, but there has been no public commitment from AWS to Citrix's CloudStack.

CloudStack already had a general public license (GPL), meaning that it was an open-source project, but James Staten, an analyst with Forrester researcher, says by CloudStack getting an Apache license, it opens it up to "significantly more developers" that will potentially be contributing to the project. The move, he says, points to OpenStack's stage of development, and a desire by some in the community for it to be further along. "I don't think it's a disrespectful move," he says. "OpenStack just isn't ready to be a revenue source yet." Krishnan Subramanian, a blogger and principal analyst at Rishidot Research, says Citrix is likely trying to capture some of the momentum in the developer community around open source cloud projects.

"This is a good way for them to quickly validate a good route to market for CloudStack," says Mark Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group. Apache has more than 100 open source projects and a large community of developers. CloudStack will be the first cloud-based platform with an Apache license, so it will expose the platform to developers in the Apache community, Bowker says. He's not too worried about what the move means for OpenStack though. "Everyone has their own pace that they're going at," he says. "Citrix obviously wants to try to get ahead of the market and find that quickest path to profitability, and aligning themselves with a large open source community like OpenStack doesn't necessarily give them the nimbleness to quickly validate and get adoption of their service."

OpenStack still has major backers, most notably HP, which has said it plans to use OpenStack to build a cloud offering for providers. "I wouldn't write OpenStack off by any means," Bowker says.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social media. He can be reached at [email protected] and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.


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