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Citrix Systems jockeys for position in crowded cloud computing market

Citrix thinks its cloud candidate can pull ahead in the industry, but enterprises may just see it as a copycat in an increasingly overcast sky.

Enterprises with big Citrix Systems installations will see fleshed out features in the new version of its public and private cloud computing platform, but it may not be enough to help Citrix break from the crowded pack of cloud vendors. 

Citrix said recently that the first fruit of last summer’s acquisition, CloudStack 3, is now generally available in beta and the production version will be out by the end of March. It's the first release of CloudStack since Citrix disclosed the purchase in July 2011.

But Citrix is making a belated entry into the public and private cloud services spaces based on the strength of its virtualization technologies. In fact, other than its huge success in desktop virtualization, Citrix is mostly known for its Xen virtualization hypervisor, which underlies several large public cloud offerings, such as Amazon.

CloudStack supports multiple virtualization platforms, including Citrix's own Xen and XenServer, as well as Linux KVM, Oracle OVM, and VMware vSphere; support for Microsoft's Hyper-V is in the works. Citrix claims the acquisition brought with it a proven platform that powers some 85 large public clouds as well as numerous private clouds.

[With CloudStack 3] there's not a lot that you can get from Citrix that you can't get from another open source offering.

Tom Nolle, president and principal analyst at CIMI Corp

"People go with Citrix because four out of five of the largest clouds in the world run on Xen or XenServer, and 75% of Internet traffic goes through a NetScaler,” Peder Ulander, vice president of product marketing for Citrix System Inc.’s Cloud Platform Group, said. “We bring that expertise and technology to CloudStack, which is now integrated with both of those products."

Indeed, Citrix's position in virtualization will likely help the company leverage CloudStack into cloud implementations.

"I would not be surprised to see enterprises layering in CloudStack on top of VMware," John Burke, principal research analyst at Nemertes Research, said.

However, the platform is built on the open source model, and that may be a problem for some potential customers, according to Tom Nolle, president and principal analyst at CIMI Corp.

"[With CloudStack 3] there's not a lot that you can get from Citrix that you can't get from another open source offering," Nolle said.

That may not be as daunting a challenge as it sounds; a lot of enterprises rely on Citrix for additional pieces of the stack such as tight integration with NetScaler, Citrix's application delivery and load balancing solution, according to Burke.

"Do I expect them to be successful?” Burke added. “Yes, but take 80% of the market share? No."

Nolle agrees on that point.

Do I expect them to be successful? Yes, but take 80% of the market share? No.

Burke, principal research analyst at Nemertes Research

"It's not going to change the industry ... it's a good strategy but it won't cause a revolution in the market," Nolle added.

From Citrix's point of view, though, the fact that CloudStack is open source is a major benefit. The company said that it has attracted more than 25,000 cloud builders to its community, and the code has been downloaded 60,000 times in the past year. In addition, Xen is a child of the open source world.

Indeed, CloudStack supports Swift, OpenStack project's object-storage technology for creating redundant, scalable object storage for large data, according to Citrix. The company has also formed its Citrix Ready Cloud Community, which is comprised of a group of technology companies and service providers certified to work with CloudStack. Community members boast more than 2,200 products so far.


Stuart J. Johnston is Senior News Writer for Contact him at

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