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Citrix OpenCloud™ is neither Open nor Cloud

This content is 13 years old and may not reflect reality today nor the author’s current opinion. Please keep its age in mind as you read it.

I’ve been busying myself recently establishing the Open Cloud Initiative which has been working with the community to establish a set of principles outlining what it means to be open cloud. As such Citrix’s announcement this week that they were “expanding their leadership in open cloud computing“(?) with the “Citrix OpenCloud™ Infrastructure platform” was somewhat intriguing, particularly for someone who’s worked with Citrix technology for 15 years and actually worked for the company for a few years before leaving to get involved in cloud computing. I was already excited to see them getting involved with OpenStack a few weeks ago as I’m supportive of this project and amazed by the level of community interest and participation, though I was really hoping that they were going to adopt the stack and better integrate it with Xen.

As usual the release itself was fluffy and devoid of clear statements as to what any of this really meant, and it doesn’t help that Citrix rebrands products more often than many change underwear. Armed with their product catalogue and information about their previous attempt to crack into the cloud space with Citrix Cloud Center (C3) I set about trying to decipher the announcement. The first thing that sprung out was the acquisition of VMlogix – a web based hypervisor management tool targeting lab environments that happens to also support Amazon EC2. Given OpenStack supports the EC2 API, perhaps this is how they plan to manage it as well as Xen “from a single management console“? Also, as Citrix are about to “add [the] intuitive, self-service interface to its popular XenServer® virtualization platform” it will be interesting to see how the likes of Enomaly feel about having a formidable ($10B+) opponent on their turf… not to mention VMware (but apparently VMware does NOT compete with Citrix – now there’s wishful thinking if I’ve ever seen it!).

Citrix also claim that customers will be able to “seamlessly manage a mix of public and private cloud workloads from a single management console, even if they span across a variety of different cloud providers“. Assuming they’re referring to VMlogix, will it be open sourced? I doubt it… and here’s the thing – I don’t expect them to. Nobody says Citrix has to be open – VMware certainly aren’t and that hasn’t kept them from building a $30B+ business. However, if they want to advertise openness as a differentiator then they should expect to be called to justify their claims. From what I can tell only the Xen hypervisor itself is open source software and it’s not at all clear how they plan to “leverage” Open vSwitch, nor whether OpenStack is even relevant given they’re just planning to manage it from their “single management console”. Even then, in a world where IT is delivered as a service rather than a product, the formats and interfaces are far more important than having access to the source itself; Amazon don’t make Linux or Xen modifications available for example but that doesn’t make them any less useful/successful (which is not to say that an alternative open source implementation like OpenStack isn’t important – it absolutely is).

Then there’s the claim that any of this is “cloud”… Sure I can use Intel chips to deliver a cloud service but does that make Intel chips “cloud”? No. How about Linux (which powers the overwhelming majority of cloud services today)? Absolutely not. So far as I can tell most of the “Citrix OpenCloud Framework” is little more than their existing suite of products cloudwashed rebranded:

  • CloudAccess ~= Citrix Password Manager
  • CloudBridge ~= Citrix Branch Repeater
  • On-Demand Apps & Demos ~= XenApp (aka WinFrame aka MetaFrame aka CPS)
  • On-Demand Desktops ~= XenDekstop
  • Compliance ~= XenApp & XenDesktop
  • Onboarding ~= Project Kensho
  • Disaster Recovery and Dev & Test ~= suites of above

At the end of the day Simon Crosby (one of the Xen guys who presumably helped convince Citrix an open source hypervisor was somehow worth $1/2bn) has repeatedly stated that Citrix OpenCloud™ is (and I quote) “100% open source software”, only to backtrack by sayingany layer of the open stack you can use a proprietary compoent(sic)” when quizzed about NetScaler, “another key component of the OpenCloud platform” and @Citrix_Cloud helpfully clarified that “OPEN means it’s plug-compatible with other options, like some open-source gear you cobble together with mobo from Fry’s“.

Maybe they’re just getting started down the open road (I hope so), but this isn’t my idea of “open” or “cloud” – and certainly not enough to justify calling it “OpenCloud”.