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Companies that are considering private or hybrid clouds often report the vexing problem of trying to understand complex cloud service-level agreements (SLAs). Their terms can be difficult to parse, and service guarantees can be even tougher to ensure. In our Trends section, we unpack often cryptic SLAs and address how a business can negotiate the most favorable terms.

If cloud contracts are confusing, the raft of smaller cloud companies cropping up every which way can make your head spin. But here’s a reality check: Not all these companies are ready for enterprise-level clouds. In fact, the private/hybrid cloud market is still dominated by vendors with a track record in the hypervisor game. That means VMware with vSphere, Microsoft with Hyper-V, and Citrix Systems with XenServer. And while VMware continues to make a strong showing with vCloud Director, Citrix Systems’ acquisition of Cloud.com’s CloudStack in July 2011 brings vitality to the market and an alternative for XenServer shops.

With CloudStack, Citrix has built on its open source virtualization platform to create a relatively fully developed cloud offering. Citrix’s portfolio isn’t as strong in cloud application development and management as, say, VMware, but it can boast a more lightweight cloud platform in terms of footprint and cost—longtime weaknesses of VMware.

The first article in this issue explores Citrix’s cloud platform, which the author deems ready for enterprises, and six steps to build a Citrix cloud in your environment. If you’ve hitched your wagon to Citrix virtualization and/or the cloud, this offers brass-tacks advice on getting started.

Next, we zero in on the nascent field of DevOps, a discipline that’s emerged in response to cloud computing—and to the need for greater cohesion among development and operations teams. We dig into the implications of these shifts for IT departments.

And as always, check out SearchCloudComputing.com for your daily dose of news on cloud happenings.

This was first published in February 2012

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