No, Citrix did not kill CloudStack

CloudStack's lifeblood is its user community, so the Citrix shakeup is much ado about nothing

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Much ink has been spilled about the recent Citrix shakeup around its CloudStack business, calling into question the long-term health of the Apache IaaS project. From the trenches, where CloudStack draws its strength, especially versus rival OpenStack, the view is quite different: CloudStack is a user-driven community with no use for Citrix at all.

My colleague David Linthicum is among those predicting doom for CloudStack. In a recent column, he noted:

Citrix made a change last week when it combined its Cloud Platforms Group and Cloud Networking team into a single unit under the Networking, Cloud & Service Provider Group (NCSP). The company says newly combined group will "optimize" Citrix cloud and networking delivery infrastructure for enterprise and service provider customers.

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But his schoolyard analogy is a stretch. As several CloudStack project contributors explained to me in a Twitter thread, the project is unlikely to even notice a change of strategy at Citrix. Just because the company donated the original code to open source, it doesn't mean it's still in control. Giles Sirett of cloud integrator ShapeBlue, a PMC member in the Apache Cloudstack project, explained, "Seriously -- they have no 'role.' CloudStack is driven mainly by its users."

In fact, it's doubtful that Citrix has ever controlled CloudStack. Granted, it's a huge organization, and there have certainly been projects at Apache effectively under the control of one company, but the Incubator process usually weeds out the worst examples. Those that remain are either tolerated for political reasons or have failed post-graduation. Either way, they eventually end up in Apache's "attic." But CloudStack does not seem to be in that category. Rather, it's a great example of the strengths of Apache's ideology.

At its inception CloudStack was an open source play, but in many ways, Citrix's handling of CloudStack has become a gamble like that of IBM dumping the Derby codebase on Apache. This use of the Apache Foundation as a way to responsibly dispose of unwanted product acquisitions is not uncommon. For example, when IBM acquired Informix, it had no real use for the CloudScape pure-Java database Informix had acquired earlier. IBM asked Apache to host the project, and Apache Derby was born. IBM withdrew CloudScape from marketing in 2007, and the residual project today seems sparsely supported.

The management changes at Citrix include the departure of executives thought to be behind CloudStack. While some see no indication of change, Linthicum's pessimism in that regard appears justified. But it doesn't matter. Unlike Derby, Citrix dumping the code at Apache seems to have worked for the community. The listing of participants in CloudStack is very impressive by any standards.

Linthicum's assertion that "CloudStack is a clear alternative to OpenStack, which has won the market for open source cloud platforms" was challenged as well, both in comparing the projects and in declaring victory. Sirett told me, "CloudStack is a product (users); OpenStack is a toolkit (vendors)." No wonder there is a difference in the noise made by each.

While OpenStack may be winning the publicity, it seems CloudStack users are getting on with using it. Rohit Yadev of ShapeBlue said, "CloudStack works so it's boring; OpenStack requires a big team, lots of keyboards to make it work." Chip Childers, VP of product strategy at Cumulogic, explained, "IaaS software should be hidden in the end. It's plumbing." He also provided a sequence of examples of significant yet quiet usage -- by BT, Interoute, and Trend Micro -- in addition to that of the commenters.

Has Citrix "taken its CloudStack ball and gone home"? It seems not. CloudStack is a project that seems to resoundingly demonstrate what Apache does best: provide a neutral space where many users of a code base can come together to quietly and effectively collaborate. The rules of the schoolyard definitely do not apply here.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.