CloudStack, OpenStack and the Significance of Support
In the wake of Citrix's decision to cut its support for the open source OpenStack cloud computing platform and move full steam ahead with the next phase of its CloudStack strategy, it still seems clear to most observers that OpenStack and CloudStack are headed for fierce competition. This shouldn't come as a surprise. All the way back in 2009, open source platforms were emerging as the best way for IT departments to guarantee flexibility in their cloud deployments. But what many people are still missing is that support is going to be the key differentiator between OpenStack and CloudStack, and other cloud platforms.
In announcing its next phase plans for CloudStack, Citrix emphasized that the open source platform is going to be overseen by the Apache Software Foundation. What's important to note, though, is this item from Citrix's announcement: "Citrix will also deliver a commercially supported release of the proposed Apache CloudStack distribution as the centerpiece of its cloud infrastructure product portfolio."
This is a classic strategy where a vendor can straddle the best of both the open source and proprietary worlds. Apache's committer-driven governance of CloudStack as an open source entity will ensure that many eyeballs are on the platform and new ideas are constantly emerging for it. At the same time, Citrix's "commercially supported" CloudStack effort is going to be the centerpiece of what it pitches to organizations.
InfoWorld makes some notable points along these lines in a story called "OpenStack versus CloudStack: A contest between services and software":
"For those expecting an apples-versus-apples fight, you're way off. CloudStack is a software product with an install base that's been moved to open source for marketing purposes...Compared to CloudStack, OpenStack is less finished. Rather, it's a framework or a base set of code that companies such as Piston Cloud Computing and Nebula are able to leverage as a foundation for their products."
It's also worth noting that CloudStack already has more than 30 partners who also happen to be supporting OpenStack. Make no mistake about how backing for OpenStack could crumble quickly if Citrix moves nimbly with CloudStack, providing Red Hat-quality support for its platform.
And speaking of Red Hat, no company has proven more resoundingly that absolutely top-notch support for open source software platforms can be a winning business model. If Citrix wants to play its cards right, it should look at the end-to-end support model that Red Hat has specialized in, ranging from training to hands-on support.
"Services, not software, should be the focus of cloud computing," concludes InfoWorld. That's exactly right, and will be the key in the OpenStack versus CloudStack kerfuffle.