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CloudStack releases first code under Apache license

OpenStack has grabbed a lot of headlines recently, but competing cloud management platform CloudStack made some news of its own this week with the project releasing its first open source code as part of the Apache Software Foundation.

The latest advance of the CloudStack code - version 4.0 - improves support for software defined networking, natively integrates Amazon Web Service API compatibility and provides a framework for more features to be added into the code, says Chip Childers, a principal engineer with SunGard Availability Services's cloud division and a member of the CloudStack project management committee.

REMEMBER WHEN? Citrix ditches OpenStack for Apache 

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Citrix shook the open source cloud world in April when the company pulled out of OpenStack and offered its CloudStack code to the ASF as its own open source project. But Childers says all that talk about "cloud wars" is over-hyped. "Within CloudStack, we're focusing on building software, continuing to evolve it, improve it and mature it, that's really our focus," he says. "We're not running around trying to pick a fight necessarily, we're just trying to improve a project most of us are using and make it something that's really truly owned by the whole community."

CloudStack vs. OpenStack isn't an apples-to-apple comparison either, he says. CloudStack is a cloud orchestration tool that allows components like compute, storage and networking to interconnect, creating the elements of a cloud platform. OpenStack, he says, is a collection of projects that are tied together by various distributions from companies. A CloudStack powered cloud, for example, could use OpenStack's Swift Storage service, for example, as a component.

COMPARE FOR YOURSELF: Cloud platform comparison: CloudStack, Eucalyptus, vCloud Director and OpenStack 

CloudStack remains an incubator project with Apache. For it to become a full-fledged Apache project, like Hadoop or HTTP, it will first need a proven track record of stable code releases and a supporting community. That's in the early stages now. He expects the next release to be in four to six months.

In the meantime though, he says the project has been growing slowly and surely. The fact that it is based off of Citrix's CloudStack code means that it already had a base level of maturity. "It can certainly be improved and evolved, but you can take CloudStack today, whether it's 3.0 or 4.0, deploy it and have it running fairly quickly," he says. "It's stable and robust."

This week's code release includes a number of new features as well, most notably with an emphasis on virtual networking - something OpenStack's latest code release also focuses heavily on. New features in CloudStack 4.0 allow users to create network tiers using firewall governing policies. Community members have also worked to integrate technology from SDN company Nicira into the project. Other new features include the ability to have locally-accessed storage within a CloudStack framework, instead of a separate network-attached storage, and it allows server hosts to be dedicated for high availability. Many of the feature enhancements are incremental and aimed at service providers who would use the CloudStack code to create a cloud computing offering, Childers says.

One other advancement is around AWS integration, which Citrix officials pointed out as a differentiating feature between CloudStack and OpenStack back in April. CloudStack now natively supports AWS API compatibility, whereas before it was an optional feature. OpenStack also supports AWS compatibility, but project backers usually speak of Amazon more as a competitor than a collaborator.

CloudStack has some advantages and challenges, says Krishnan Subramanian, a blogger and analyst at boutique firm Rishidot Research. The fact that Citrix is backing the project means that it should have support into the foreseeable future. But Subramanian says it's critical for CloudStack to grow its developer base and ecosystem of partners.

"A big concern for me is the relative lack of outside developers," he notes. "I was excited when Citrix pushed the project to Apache Foundation because I thought it will help them get outside developers and might span a business ecosystem like OpenStack. It has not happened. It's still a project developed mainly by a single vendor and we are not seeing any other vendor building a business out of it."

But, he says, it's early yet.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.


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