CloudStack vs. OpenStack: Competitors or allies?

Gina Narcisi

Media hype surrounded Citrix's decision last week to open source its CloudStack Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) product with the Apache Foundation, leading many to speculate that the vendor has abandoned OpenStack, an IaaS offering supported by Rackspace and NASA. But while CloudStack is a second option in the market for cloud providers, it isn't necessarily a threat to OpenStack.

Citrix will continue to collaborate with OpenStack, despite the vendor's support of CloudStack, noted Peder Ulander, vice president of product marketing for Citrix.

"Citrix was, and still will continue to be, the fifth biggest contributor of code into the OpenStack product. And at the same time we consume OpenStack code, we have support for Swift [OpenStack's object storage system] in CloudStack as well," he said.

Citrix was, and still will continue to be, the fifth biggest contributor of code into the OpenStack product.

Peder Ulander
Vice President of Product Marketing, Citrix

Citrix has converted CloudStack from a product to an open-source project under the Apache 2 open-source license. The distinction between product and project will set the tone for greater community engagement and a more open ecosystem for collaboration, Ulander noted.

The decision to hand over the CloudStack project to the Apache Foundation places the technology on neutral ground, said Laurent Lachel, research director at Ovum, a British technology consultancy firm.

"By giving CloudStack to the [Apache] Foundation … [Citrix] will attract third-party involvement and support for the CloudStack project," he said.

CloudStack vs. OpenStack: Citrix is listening to customers

Citrix decided to shift focus away from OpenStack and toward CloudStack because customers were concerned about OpenStack's maturity. And Rackspace did not always welcome changes that Citrix proposed for OpenStack.

"We had been working with OpenStack to make sure we had compatibility with our customers within cloud-management space," Ulander said. "Unfortunately, OpenStack is governed and driven largely by Rackspace, who very eloquently said 'no' every time [Citrix] tried to contribute."

Citrix made the choice to launch a more open community for CloudStack by taking it to the Apache Foundation. "We wanted to maintain the longevity and fidelity of our customers, and move [CloudStack] forward in a very community-focused way," he said.

CloudStack and OpenStack differ in nature and credibility, Lachel said. While OpenStack has 160 supporters, CloudStack currently has 57, including Juniper, Intel and Brocade. "While there is overlap between the two, CloudStack is more mature and has been proven in more production environments, despite having a smaller community of supporters," he said.

And OpenStack continues to evolve quickly, while CloudStack is more stable, noted Shawn Edmondson, vice president of product strategies at rPath, a software startup and partner of Citrix.

Technology and design-wise, CloudStack and OpenStack are very similar, Edmondson said. When Citrix acquired CloudStack creator Cloud.com, the startup had many customers in production. Industry observers speculated then that Citrix might shift focus toward CloudStack rather than continue to fully support OpenStack. "Fundamentally, however, OpenStack and CloudStack are going after the same thing in a very similar way," he said.

More on CloudStack and OpenStack IaaS:

Citrix splits with OpenStack in favor of CloudStack

Fifth version of OpenStack released

Citrix vs. VMware in the cloud

CloudStack and OpenStack: What two options means for the industry

While cloud providers can use both OpenStack and CloudStack to stand up IaaS clouds, Citrix believed CloudStack was a project that made better sense as a standalone initiative, noted Jim Curry, general manager of Rackspace Cloud Builders. "Citrix proposed there should be a second open-sourced cloud software project," he said.

"I think [the announcement] is evidence that the market is trying to figure out what the right open solution is," Curry added. "Judging from the history of IT, in which the market always coalesces around open technology, I don't think there will ultimately be two open-sourced cloud solutions."

Although Citrix is trying to establish its own CloudStack community, CloudStack and OpenStack could ultimately converge, Lachel said.

"You have two different ecosystems, and many others have tried to create an open-sourced cloud project. Even though CloudStack does want to emerge as its own system, it still plans on continuing to use OpenStack technology," he said.

The Apache platform will make this type of collaboration easier. "Via the Apache Foundation, it will be very easy for anyone to take the technology and run with it," Lachel said. "The same way that CloudStack can use OpenStack technology, OpenStack could also use some CloudStack technology."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: OpenStack vs. CloudStack: What's the best approach? or view the full guide: OpenStack tutorial: A guide for cloud providers

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