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Citrix splits from OpenStack standard with CloudStack

Citrix has gone its own way on cloud OSes with CloudStack but claims it doesn't want to kill OpenStack. However, it officially ended Project Olympus.

The cloud standards war has heated up, as Citrix said this week it has pitted its own CloudStack platform against OpenStack. Both technologies are open source and Citrix is even an OpenStack contributor -- a role the company said it will continue to play.

However, it's a risky strategy. For one, the impact on cloud shops may turn out to be muddied waters rather than increased clarity -- and the result may be one of fragmentation rather than unification, according to one analyst.

If we start seeing multiple cloud platform standards emerge, it's bad news over the long run for IT.

Charles King, principal analyst, Pund-IT, Inc.

"If we start seeing multiple cloud platform standards emerge, it's bad news over the long run for IT," said Charles King, principal analyst at IT advisory firm Pund-IT, Inc. "It's not unusual for 'standards' to metastasize," he added. "We might have a schism starting here."

Citrix Systems Inc. will standardize its present and future cloud platforms on CloudStack, which it acquired last year, and it has submitted the code to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). The latest release, CloudStack 3.0, is now available under the Apache License version 2.0.

The company said that standardizing on CloudStack will not lead to market confusion.

"Citrix does not view this as zero-sum and we don’t want OpenStack to die,” Sameer Dholakia, group vice president and general manager of Citrix's cloud platforms, said in a blog post on Thursday. “In fact, we will continue to contribute to and cross-pollinate from the OpenStack project in our commercial product.”

Citrix does not view this as zero-sum and we don’t want OpenStack to die.

Sameer Dholakia, general manager of Citrix's cloud platforms

"This is the first time in software history that open source is leading the industry and we want to seize that opportunity by working with ASF, as well as continuing to collaborate with OpenStack, in order to establish a mainstream open source cloud platform," he added.

Meanwhile, Citrix declared "Project Olympus," its planned commercial distribution of OpenStack, officially "dead." The reason:  It's not release-grade yet, and it likely won't be up to that level for another two years or more. That's just too long for customers to wait.

Calling it the "centerpiece" of the company's cloud portfolio, Dholakia said CloudStack was purpose-built for the cloud, it is ready today and it's open source. It also provides compatibility with Amazon Web Services' (AWS) application programming interface (API).

"It's a departure from our previous 'build-on' [OpenStack] plan," Dholakia admitted. That plan was "not viable," he added.

The maker of the Xen and XenServer virtualization platforms is widely viewed as a latecomer to the cloud party and struggles to differentiate itself from a field of competitors, most notably VMware Inc.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the OpenStack community began shipping Essex, the fifth release of OpenStack, which is also an Apache project.

Essex provides the first full release of two new project components, Dashboard (codenamed "Horizon") and Identity (codenamed "Keystone"). It also adds improved automation and integration across projects, as well as central management and provisioning by using OpenStack's pluggable architecture, the organization said.

OpenStack was pioneered by Rackspace Inc. and NASA in July 2010, and it claims support from more than 150 companies, including Hewlett Packard, Dell, Intel Corp, Cisco Systems Inc., AMD and SuSE, with more joining at a healthy clip. In fact, IBM recently joined OpenStack's ranks, according to documents on the community's website, and Red Hat is rumored to announce its support soon as well. (An OpenStack spokesperson declined to confirm either company's membership.)

For its part, Citrix remains a member of the OpenStack organization. CloudStack will even support OpenStack's object storage component, codenamed "Swift."

Citrix acquired CloudStack when it bought then three-year-old for a cool $200 million last summer. CloudStack 3, the first release of the system since Citrix bought, started beta testing in February and is now generally available, the company said.

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