Citrix (previous CloudAve coverage) today announced that they are releasing CloudStack (previous CloudAve coverage) under Apache 2 License and it will now be part of the Apache Foundation. The project is supported by 30 ecosystem partners including NTT, Juniper Networks, Tata Communications, etc.. They also announced that they are embracing AWS API for interoperability. Already, this news has created some stir with Randy Bias of CloudScaling writing about it while media, bloggers and analysts were tied by embargo. I am pretty sure this conversation is going to continue among the Clouderati community in the days to come. This post is not about the news per se but, rather, I am going to write about what I think about this news. I am going to discuss this from three different angles.
First, CloudStack POV
This is a smart move by Citrix because it helps them on many fronts. CloudStack has much better adoption than OpenStack because they have been in the market for a much longer period than OpenStack but OpenStack has been gaining the mindshare ever since it was launched two years back at OSCON. Part of the reason was because OpenStack was positioned as a vendor neutral project while CloudStack was a vendor driven project. Developers flocked to OpenStack and pundits went gaga about the project (including myself). OpenStack could easily leverage this buzz and position themselves as a strong alternative to AWS. They could do it even when their compute project was not mature enough for production systems (now it has matured considerably). Moreover, both Citrix and Cloud.com (before the acquisition) were in a bind because they were part of OpenStack project while also owning its competitor. In short, Citrix’s cloud strategy appeared to be a complete mess. In fact, Citrix’s cloud platform strategy was one of the important questions posed by some of our clients during advisory sessions. We never had a good answer till today.
By pushing the project to Apache foundation, Citrix is clearly positioning themselves to gain the necessary mindshare while also consolidating their marketshare. The move to Apache Foundation allows them to do just that because it signals to the developers that the project is truly open (well, Apache Foundation is the mecca of open source and what other credential will anyone want?) and it also tells the ecosystem partners that they can jump in with a plan to monetize around the project. In short, it can be easily seen as the surest sign that Citrix has no interest in remote controlling the project. I think such a perception will increase developer adoption in the coming years, eventually, making CloudStack a more robust and competitive platform.
The mindshare gain is critical because it is important for the very core of Citrix’s survival. They are right now battling on many fronts. On one side, they are fighting against VMware while, on the other side, they are also trying to fend off KVM and Hyper-V in both the virtualization market and the cloud market. If OpenStack becomes the defacto open source cloud implementation, it will signal trouble for Citrix’s core business. The only way to stop the bleeding is to create another compelling open source project which will take the mindshare away from OpenStack. A move to Apache Foundation is solely done for this purpose and, If you see from this perspective, this is a very smart move.
But let us keep in mind that an entry into Apache Foundation is not a guarantee for success. I am pretty sure critics will point out to the OpenOffice example. However, in my opinion, OpenOffice is not the right counter spin against CloudStack’s move to Apache Foundation. Oracle messed up big time and pushed an entire community out before OpenOffice was donated to Apache Foundation. CloudStack doesn’t have any such problem. Moreover, there is no single cloud platform under Apache Foundation and CloudStack is a welcome addition to fill the gap. If we couple with some other open source projects already existing in the foundation, which can be a very good value add for CloudStack project, there is a potential goldmine of opportunities there. As developers begin to flock to the CloudStack project, it could turn out to be one of the successful Apache projects we have seen in the recent history. It is too early to predict victory but the cloud market is still at a very nascent stage with the larger share of IT pie yet to be grabbed by any single cloud provider or platform. Apache CloudStack has a very good chance to be a competitive player in the market.
Second, OpenStack POV
When the news came out to the media yesterday, many journalists and bloggers asked me if it is bad for Open Source, in general, and OpenStack, in particular. Many of the open source friendly pundits were disturbed by the announcement, even wondering if it is going to hurt OpenStack and let a proprietary vendor like VMware or Microsoft gain the marketshare. However, my response was “Open Source, FTW”. In my opinion, CloudStack’s move to Apache Foundation actually strengthens OpenStack than impacting it in any negative way. First, and foremost, it makes it clear that vendor neutral open source platforms are the right way to go. Second, it makes it even more abundantly clear that open source is here to stay and it is the turn of proprietary vendors to play the catch up game. Lastly, it will keep both OpenStack and CloudStack innovating hard, eventually benefitting the end users. Let us keep in mind that monopoly is bad even if it is open source. So, having a strong open source competitor to OpenStack is a good thing to happen. It will keep them honest and push them to innovate hard. Any argument that Apache CloudStack is a bad thing to happen for the open source cloud community is completely flawed.
However, this is also the clearest warning to OpenStack project. Recently, we heard some rumblings about OpenStack Foundation related to the tiered structure proposed for the board of directors. The community was working hard to sort it out but I did get some feelers that the compromise may not be satisfactory for all the parties concerned. By pushing CloudStack to Apache Foundation, Citrix has pushed OpenStack community to do it right on the OpenStack Foundation front. Now, the OpenStack Foundation will be forced to have a more democratic and more equitable solution to the problem. Any failure to do so will ultimately result in smaller players, who feel less appreciated or ignored, quietly move to the Apache CloudStack ecosystem. I think that this announcement will add considerable pressure on Rackspace and the rest of the OpenStack community to work together to set up the foundation right.
Standardization around AWS
The only thing I didn’t like about the announcement is their embrace of AWS APIs. In my opinion, any standardization on AWS API is premature. Yes, AWS has the largest marketshare in the public cloud segment with almost close to $1 Billion in revenues. Yes, it is huge if we just consider the public cloud segment alone. But it is also a very thin slice of the pie if we consider the entire IT infrastructure market. Plus, we are still in the early stages of cloud evolution and standardizing around AWS API will inhibit innovation. Any worries about API proliferation is premature too. With players like Rightscale, enStratus, etc. taking the pain out of the API complexity, we need not worry about it for quite sometime. In short, any move to standardize around AWS API (at this point in time) is short sighted at the best.
Having said that, I also want to point out that this CloudStack news and last week’s Eucalyptus news are clearest indications that there is some momentum on the side of folks who are calling vendors to standardize around AWS APIs. Unless we see large scale adoption of OpenStack in the coming years, I think standardization around AWS API is inevitable. It will also be interesting to see how VMware and Microsoft react to this drift towards AWS APIs.
Finally, some time pass stuff
Remember we heard about rumors that Tata Communications was having scaling and reliability problems with CloudStack and they are actively considering OpenStack? Some of the feelers I got from the Indian side gave me indications that Tata Communications is firmly behind CloudStack but I could never confirm it officially. Yesterday, I noticed that Tata Communications was listed as one of the launch partners for Apache CloudStack project. I am pretty sure they wouldn’t have agreed to put their name there if they were planning to move to OpenStack. What do you think?