Citrix targets virtualization, orchestration layers

CloudStack helps companies deploy and manage large virtual machine networks

With scores of new cloud companies popping up and so many existing players jumping on the cloud bandwagon, we wondered where the traditional enterprise networking vendors stood?

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Were they guilty of "cloudwashing" - slapping the cloud label on existing products? Were they ignoring the cloud and risking getting left in the dust? Were they scrambling to re-invent themselves as cloud service providers?

Turns out that companies like Cisco and Juniper, CA and Citrix are sticking to their core strengths and positioning themselves as enablers of the cloud, providing the underlying hardware and software just like they've been doing for enterprise and service provider customers for decades.

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If Citrix's XenServer virtualization platform is the body of what the company has to offer to service providers and enterprises looking to build and tap into the public cloud, then CloudStack is the brains behind the operation.

CloudStack is the Java-based open source cloud orchestration software Citrix picked up with its recent acquisition of last summer. It is designed to ease the administrative hassles associated with deploying and managing large networks of virtual machines.

Even before Citrix bought in July, about 80% of's customers were already using XenServer as their cloud optimized hypervisor. "So those two layers have been working together for a very long time," says Sameer Dholakia, group vice president and general manager for the cloud platforms group at Citrix. That said, CloudStack, can also manage Linux KVM (kernel-based virtual machine), VMware's VSphere and Oracle's Oracle VM as well as handle bare-metal provisioning. Support for Microsoft's Hyper-V is slated next year.

"It is core to our strategy not to create [vendor] lock-in at any layer in the stack," adds Dholakia.

Over 70% of Citrix's cloud-building business is done with telcos (Korea Telecom, British Telecom and Telstra in Australia, to name a few) who see Amazon's innovative way of doing business in the cloud as a big threat to their traditional revenue stream.

"Many of the service providers we are working with are building multiple cloud offerings build on different virtual infrastructures for a variety of timing and cost reasons and they are using CloudStack to manage them all," Dholakia says.

There are cost reasons for having multiple virtualization platforms as a cloud provider, but there "really is no reason why you'd want to maintain two, separate orchestration layers to manage them," Dholakia says.

One layer up in Critrix's cloud enablement stack is CloudPortal (a property that came into the Citrix fold in part with the buy, but also through the company's purchase of EMS- Cortex in February), which is a suite of tools that enables a service provider to set up the business processes involved in running a public cloud. It provides things like on-boarding, account management, billing and self-service provisioning.

For enterprises who want on-premise "public-like" cloud services behind their own firewall, Citrix's strategy hinges on the possibility of hybrid management. Through a combination of XenServer and CloudStack deployments on premise and in the cloud, customers could set up "cloud zones" within the same management interface. These cloud zones would have to be connected via another Citrix product called Cloud Bridge, which runs on top of company's line of NetScaler VPN appliances.

"This is still a very early use case of our products. Most customers are really thinking about one side of the wire or the other," Dohlakia says. But he contends the wind is definitely blowing public clouds into the enterprise landscape.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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