Cloud Inter-Operability

Citrix Turns CloudStack Away From OpenStack To Apache Software Foundation

Today, Citrix revealed plans to open-source its CloudStack IaaS solution to the Apache Software Foundation under an Apache 2.0 license. Previously, Citrix had intended to integrate OpenStack with CloudStack in the form of an offering known as Project Olympus, which was unveiled last year as one of the first commercialized distributions of OpenStack. Because OpenStack is one of the world’s largest open source collaborations on cloud computing, a CloudStack product offering whose IaaS code was based on OpenStack would have represented an inter-operable, open source-derived product that avoids vendor lock-in by interfacing with other OpenStack-based products. Today’s announcement, however, represents an abrupt change of course by Citrix with significant implications for OpenStack, Amazon Web Services and cloud inter-operability more generally.

CloudStack will be released for public deployment immediately under the stewardship of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), which takes credit for successfully incubating the likes of Hadoop and Cassandra. Citrix’s press release commented on the decision to open-source CloudStack with ASF as follows:

Elevating CloudStack into a full open source Apache project will further accelerate its mission of delivering a powerful, proven, hypervisor-agnostic platform that helps customers of all sizes build true Amazon-style clouds…. This proven method for incubating and advancing leading open source cloud projects is ideal for bringing a vibrant community of vendors and developers together to accelerate innovation, interoperability and standardization.

Rather than waiting for OpenStack to iron out issues related to its governance structure and choose whether to officially endorse the Amazon Web Services API, Citrix decided to open source CloudStack immediately. In a conference call the day before the publication of the press release, Citrix identified four attributes required of the ecosystem supporting their platform: (1) the platform must be fundamentally cloud-based; (2) production-level ability to scale; (3) Amazon Web Services compatibility; and (4) open source. Citrix’s Sameer Dholakia, Vice President and General Manager of the Cloud Platforms Group, spoke to GigaOM about the difficulties of integrating with OpenStack by noting: “Our very explicit public statement had been that we were going to try and build atop the OpenStack platform…[But] we can’t afford to wait a year or two for the technical maturation process that needs to happen [in order to integrate CloudStack and OpenStack].” Gartner’s Lydia Leong elaborated on Dholakia’s concerns about OpenStack’s immaturity by comparing CloudStack with OpenStack:

What makes this big news is the fact that OpenStack is a highly immature platform (it’s unstable and buggy and still far from feature-complete, and people who work with it politely characterize it as “challenging”), but CloudStack is, at this point in its evolution, a solid product — it’s production-stable and relatively turnkey, comparable to VMware’s vCloud Director (some providers who have lab-tested both even claim stability and ease of implementation are better than vCD). Taking a stable, featureful base, and adding onto it, is far easier for an open-source community to do than trying to build complex software from scratch.

The other reason for Citrix to turn away from OpenStack concerns its equivocation about support for the Amazon Web Services API. Lydia Leong continues: “OpenStack’s community has been waffling about whether or not they want to continue to support an Amazon-compatible API; at the moment, OpenStack has its own API but also secondarily supports Amazon compatibility.” Citrix continues its support for the Amazon Web Services API for its Apache-based CloudStack offering as well as its commercial counterpart although Amazon Web Services has yet to officially endorse it.

Turning over CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation makes good business sense, according to many analysts. James Staten of Forrester Research noted that Citrix’s decision to hand over CloudStack to the Apache Software Foundation constitutes an astute strategic maneuver to recoup some of its investment in the $200 million Cloud.com acquisition that formed the foundation for its CloudStack offering. However, Staten observes that the question now is whether other vendors will follow suit and break away from OpenStack as well:

For a company that needs revenue now and has a more mature solution, a break away from OpenStack, while politically unpopular, is clearly the right business decision. The key question this raises is whether the move will be followed by others who need revenue now. At the fall 2011 OpenStack Design Summit there was a low rumble of discontent that the OpenStack code was not maturing fast enough.

Staten’s remarks point to concerns that OpenStack code was failing to develop at the pace required to stay commercially competitive in the IaaS space. Given the recent Amazon Web Services-Eucalyptus deal, which consolidates the positioning of the AWS API, and today’s move by Citrix to turn over CloudStack to an Apache 2.0 license, the obvious question is whether OpenStack can innovate at a pace that maintains its contributing base of supporters and roster of commercial deployments. Once seen as a possible counterweight to Amazon Web Services that offers the lure of cloud-interoperability, OpenStack is running up against the clock ticking on the maturity of its code as well as the robustness of its API as an alternative to the Amazon Web Services API.

Categories: Amazon Web Services, Citrix Systems, Cloud Inter-Operability, CloudStack, OpenStack | 5 Comments

Cloud Computing 2011: The Year in Review

Whereas Time magazine selected “The Protester” as the Person of the Year, the award for Technology of the Year surely goes to Cloud Computing. 2011 marked the year that cloud computing emerged with force and gravitas onto the enterprise landscape. In the case of enterprise CIOs and IT leaders pondering the use of cloud computing infrastructures, the question of the day suddenly morphed from whether to engage the services of a cloud provider to when and how. Over the course of the year, cloud providers grew, emerged, acquired companies or were acquired, raised venture capital and announced products at a dizzying pace.

Within months, the cloud computing landscape transformed from the Amazon, Rackspace, Joyent, Terremark, Savvis show to something radically heterogeneous and complex. As more and more cloud technologies proliferated, analysts and technologists alike began to feel that the term “cloud computing” itself was losing its meaning. Meanwhile, news agencies and blogs struggled to keep up with the pace of innovation and deployment as startups and enterprises alike announced new, exciting and powerful cloud technologies day after day, week after week.

Below are some of the highlights of cloud computing in 2011, the year of the cloud:

• In January and February, Amazon Web Services busted out of the gate in 2011 with the launch of Elastic Beanstalk and CloudFormation. Elastic Beanstalk automates the process of deploying an application on Amazon’s virtual servers. CloudFormation automates the provisioning of virtual resources using templates that streamline the setup of an infrastructure for deployments of new instances.

• In May, Citrix announced plans to launch Project Olympus, an IaaS platform that allows customers to leverage the OpenStack operating system code to create public or private clouds. Project Olympus marked the first commercialization of OpenStack and thereby inaugurated a series of commercial OpenStack deployments throughout the remainder of 2011.

• In May, Red Hat launched IaaS platform CloudForms and PaaS platform OpenShift. CloudForms signaled genuine innovation in the IaaS space because of its Application Lifecycle Management capabilities and hybrid infrastructure flexibility. OpenShift, meanwhile, presented direct competition to Google Apps, Windows Azure and Amazon’s Elastic Beanstalk because of the breadth of its deployment platform and claims about increased portability.

• In June, Apple announced details of iCloud, a software framework that synchronizes files across multiple devices such as iPads, iPhones and personal computers, and pushes software updates to a constellation of devices in unison. In a keynote address at the Apple Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC), Steve Jobs famously remarked that iCloud would “demote the PC and Mac to being a device,” because “we’re going to move the digital hub into the cloud.”

• In August, Amazon Web Services announced the launch of GovCloud, a private cloud for government agencies that complies with regulatory and compliance rules for the Federal government such as FISMA, FIPS 140-2 compliant end points, SAS-70, ISO 27001, and PCI DSS Level 1.

• In September, OpenStack, the open source cloud computing infrastructure that gained the backing of 144 companies including AMD, Canonical, Cisco, Dell, Intel and Citrix, released Diablo, its latest software version since the Cactus release in April 2011. Diablo, the first upgrade to OpenStack released on a 6 month schedule, upgrades its existing Nova, Object Storage and Glance components.

• Also in September, Joshua McKenty’s startup Piston Cloud Computing launched pentOS, one of the first enterprise grade versions of OpenStack for private clouds. With the launch of pentOS, Piston joined HP, Citrix Systems, Nebula and Dell in an elite group of vendors that commercialized the OpenStack platform in the latter half of 2011.

• In October, Rackspace revealed plans to turn over the leadership of OpenStack to an independent foundation. After founding OpenStack with the collaboration of NASA in the summer of 2010, Rackspace decided to hand over trademarks and copyrights to an independent foundation to ensure that OpenStack remains vendor neutral.

The meteoric rise of OpenStack constituted the cloud computing story of the year, by far. Commercial deployments of OpenStack by Piston Cloud Computing and other vendors underscored the emerging power of OpenStack as an increasingly competitive option to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) vendors such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. Moreover, OpenStack promised global cloud inter-operability and standards resulting from an open source organizational framework for which respect snowballed within the developer and enterprise community alike. Much of the story of cloud computing in 2012 will hinge on the ability of the OpenStack foundation to continue to promote the software framework’s adoption in the private sector and establish itself as a credible counterweight to first mover Amazon Web Services and other proprietary cloud vendors.

Categories: Amazon Web Services, Citrix Systems, Cloud Computing, Cloud Computing Market Share, Cloud Inter-Operability, Dell, HP, IaaS, iCloud, OpenStack, Piston Cloud Computing, Platform as a Service, Rackspace | 4 Comments

Canonical Founder Endorses Amazon Web Services APIs As Standard Cloud API

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth’s ringing endorsement of Amazon Web Services APIs last week gave Amazon Web Services yet another boost as it consolidates its position in the enterprise space. Having launched its Amazon Direct Connect service in yet another region last week, Amazon Web Services continues to gain industry momentum that builds upon its deployment of GovCloud, the recently launched AWS region that enables government agencies to embrace cloud computing while complying with government level security regulations about the handling of sensitive data.

In a blog post last Thursday, Canonical’s founder Mark Shuttleworth advocated that OpenStack, the open source cloud computing platform backed by 110 companies, adopt Amazon APIs as their standard API for enabling transfers of data between OpenStack and other cloud environments. Shuttleworth referenced the HTTP standard for the World Wide Web as the protocol for data transfer and noted that Amazon’s API constitutes the analogue of HTTP for cloud computing:

Today, cloud infrastructure is looking for its HTTP. I think that standard already exists in de facto form today at AWS, with EC2, S3 and some of the credential mechanisms being essentially the core primitives of cloud infrastructure management.

Shuttleworth goes on to claim that, despite the existence of an effective standard for cloud computing APIs from Amazon, ample opportunities remain for advances in the area of cloud computing implementations:

There is enormous room for innovation in cloud infrastructure *implementations*, even within the constraints of that minimalist API. The hackers and funders and leaders and advocates of OpenStack, and any number of other cloud infrastructure projects both open source and proprietary, would be better off figuring out how to leverage that standardisation than trying to compete with it, simply because no other API is likely to gain the sort of ecosystem we see around AWS today.

Shuttleworth’s post was prompted by speculation that OpenStack should innovate at the level of an API in addition to its core IaaS infrastructure. Rather than innovating at the level of the API, the former Canonical CEO argues for adopting the AWS API as a standard and innovating around or with respect to that API. Shuttleworth believes OpenStack’s mission should be to serve as “the reference public cloud provider scale implementation of cloud infrastructure compatible with AWS core APIs.”

Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu Linux, joined the OpenStack community in February of 2011 and subsequently switched the core of its Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud to OpenStack instead of Eucalyptus in May. Shuttleworth’s endorsement of Amazon EC2 APIs comes as the battle for cloud inter-operability take shape, even though the relative immaturity of the industry means that a clear inter-operability standard analogous to healthcare’s HL7 protocol is months or even years away. AWS APIs compete with Apache’s Libcloud and Red Hat’s Deltacloud in a space that is gaining momentum as more and more companies consider switching from one cloud infrastructure to another.

Categories: Amazon Web Services, Canonical, Cloud Inter-Operability, IaaS | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Open Data Center Alliance Pushes Cloud Inter-Operability with Eight Use Cases

Whereas healthcare IT can boast inter-operability standards in the form of HL7 compliant standards that regulate the transmission of structured, electronic health data, the cloud computing space has yet to finalize analogous protocols for the exchange of data. As a result, the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) has become one of several organizations pushing for cloud computing inter-operability standards that promise to enable customers to avoid vendor lock-in or inaccurate transformations of their data resulting from data migration from one vendor to another. Featuring a steering committee composed of representatives from BMW, Capgemini, China Life, China Unicom, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Inc., National Australia Bank, Terremark, The Walt Disney Company and UBS, the Open Data Center Alliance represents enterprise customers whose annual spending on IT totals $100 billion. In an effort to accelerate the adoption of cloud inter-operability standards, on June 7, the ODCA elaborated eight use cases and a vision of inter-operable cloud computing that is intended to spur standards bodies to collaborate with vendors to define a set of standards across the industry. Topics addressed by four of the eight use cases include:

•Cloud Provider Security Assurance and Security Monitoring
•Standardized Units of Measurement for IaaS to enable meaningful comparisons of price and functionality across vendors
•Environmental standards regarding the CO2 footprint of cloud computing products and services
•Technical architecture of virtual machine inter-operability and I/O controls

More generally, the use cases address the topics of secure federation, automation, common management, policy transparency and solution transparency. The Open Data Center Alliance has pledged to share these uses cases with the Cloud Security Association (CSA), The Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and TM Forum’s Enterprise Cloud Leadership Council (ECLC).

Categories: Cloud Computing, Cloud Inter-Operability | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

LibCloud and DeltaCloud Lead the Charge Toward Cloud Inter-Operability

Apache LibCloud’s May 19 graduation from the Apache Incubator signifies that the race toward cloud inter-operability is firmly underway. Libcloud provides an open source Python library of back-end drivers that enables developers to connect to APIs of over 20 cloud computing platforms such as Amazon EC2, Eucalyptus, GoGrid, IBM Cloud, Linode, Terremark and vCloud. Developers can write code once and then re-deploy their applications on other cloud environments in order to avoid vendor lock-in and create redundant architectures for disaster recovery purposes. LibCloud was originally developed by the Rackspace acquisition CloudKick but subsequently migrated to the Apache Incubator Project in November 2009. LibCloud’s graduation from the Apache Incubator as a Top Level Project means that the product will be managed by a Project Management Committee that assumes responsibility for its evolution and subsequent releases. LibCloud is currently available under version 2.0 of an Apache Software License.

The principal drawback about LibCloud is its exclusive use of Python as the programming language to connect drivers to vendor APIs. Red Hat’s DeltaCloud, in contrast, leverages a REST based API that offers more flexibility than LibCloud’s Python library for the purpose of migrating software deployments from one cloud infrastructure to another. Like LibCloud, DeltaCloud is being groomed through the Apache Incubator project but has a few more steps to travel before graduation and the achievement of top level status. Nevertheless, open source options are clearly leading the charge toward cloud inter-operability although they all presently require the withdrawal of a cloud instance to a holding database followed by re-deployment through the activation of the linking API. In other words, neither LibCloud nor DeltaCloud enable developers to connect Amazon EC2 to Rackspace without an intermediary database as a preliminary step.

Categories: Cloud Computing, Cloud Inter-Operability | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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