Cisco, a prominent contributor to the OpenStack cloud operating system, has recently declared its support for the Citrix-backed Apache CloudStack platform. This CloudStack support is part of a broader alliance between Cisco and Citrix, which includes networking products, desktop virtualization and cloud orchestration.
While Cisco intends to contribute to both open source cloud initiatives, the new cloud orchestration layer will help grow CloudStack as a formidable competitor to OpenStack, as well as grant cloud providers an opportunity to take advantage of Cisco's technology within CloudStack.
Cloud providers benefit from new cloud orchestration layers
Cisco will be working with Citrix to build a cloud orchestration layer based on Citrix's CloudPlatform for CloudStack, which will then be integrated with Cisco's Nexus series switches, the Cisco Open Network Environment and the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS).
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The vendor will also be supporting the CloudStack project's engineers and service providers to tie together the networking components of CloudStack, Peder Ulander, vice president of product marketing for Citrix Systems Inc. wrote in a recent blog post.
The partnership between Cisco and Citrix could reduce complexity for both cloud providers and their customers, said Adrian J. Herrera, senior director of marketing for Caringo, an Austin, Texas-based object storage software vendor that has integrated its product with Citrix's CloudPlatform for CloudStack for cloud providers.
"Cisco is bringing networking knowledge and some great hardware, and pairing it with cloud orchestration within CloudStack," he said. "Software developers, like ourselves, can plug our contributions into this combined framework so customers can go to one spot to manage multiple software services."
Cloud providers will be able to run Caringo's storage software, while using Cisco's UCS to manage both storage and CloudStack CloudPlatform for a complete cloud solution, Herrera said.
"Many times, [customers] have to piece those integrations together themselves. What Cisco, Citrix and other cloud [software vendors], like Caringo, are doing is removing a lot of those steps with the new orchestration layer," he said.
Support for multiple open source cloud initiatives
Just because Cisco has announced support for CloudStack does not mean the vendor is turning its back on OpenStack. Cisco recently announced its own free OpenStack distribution prior to its partnership announcement with Citrix.
"Cisco has nothing to gain by really promoting one virtualization strategy or stack over another," said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. OpenStack may be advancing faster than CloudStack, and Cisco intends to advance the virtual networking needs within the open source platform with its own proprietary technology.
While the Citrix partnership will provide Cisco with cloud migration opportunities, the depth of Cisco's involvement with CloudStack may not reach as far as its work with OpenStack, he said.
Citrix recently split from OpenStack to mature its Cloud.com acquisition, known today as CloudStack. While a defection from OpenStack is not unthinkable for Cisco, noted Laurent Lachel, research director at British technology consultancy Ovum, Cisco's open source cloud commitments will most likely remain within OpenStack.
Some industry observers were speculating that Cisco was moving from OpenStack to CloudStack to avoid using the same platform as its rival, Hewlett-Packard, but Nolle said that was unlikely.
"Because a move in either direction will not be profitable to Cisco, I think [Cisco] prefers to wait and see what direction both OpenStack and CloudStack move in," Nolle said.
Could Cisco mature CloudStack?
While the vendor's interest in the newly expanded Citrix alliance could encourage Citrix todevelop CloudStack into a bigger and better cloud computing offering, Nolle noted, "Cisco's main interest lies only in creating its own higher-layer cloud toolkit -- not to mature CloudStack."
But Cisco's involvement in CloudStack could help to mature the cloud platform indirectly, as well as give the cloud platform a higher profile in the eyes of other cloud providers, Lachel noted.
"Both platforms are both open source, and they can borrow from one another," Lachel said, noting that Cisco's contributions to OpenStack on the networking level could also be used to help grow CloudStack's functionality.