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Charles Babcock
Charles Babcock
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Citrix Defends CloudStack's Value Vs. OpenStack

CloudStack will be another choice for building private clouds, says Citrix exec Peder Ulander. Can these two similar open source projects survive?

It's hard to disagree, but for better or worse, CloudStack has not attracted as broad a support community as OpenStack. Could it be the Citrix close association with Microsoft, which has its own cloud priorities, that prompted first, HP, then IBM and Red Hat to make up their minds and join OpenStack?

Ulander points out that Citrix brings its own community of 50 partners to the CloudStack project at Apache, including Intel, Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper, and Brocade.

That may be, but in its proposal to the Apache Software Foundation, Citrix acknowledged that most of the CloudStack code came from developers who are now Citrix developers. Two of those key developers have departed. Citrix cited 30 outside contributors, but that's a paltry figure compared to major, thriving open source projects, which will have several hundred contributors per release.

"Most of the current code contributors are paid contributors, employed by Citrix. Over the past six months CloudStack has received several contributions from non-Citrix employees…" the proposal stated. CloudStack was open source in name prior to the Apache submission but was essentially a project directed by and paid for inside Citrix. The Apache Good Housekeeping seal of approval may change that. But the proof will be in the diversity of companies backing a project with active code reviews, bug fixes, and code contributions.

For whatever reason, OpenStack has rapidly gained a critical mass on that backing. Its latest members include veteran open source project backers Red Hat and IBM. It already had the backing of Cisco Systems, Intel, AMD, NASA, and Dell, as well as cloud startups Nebula, CloudScaling, and Piston; all in all 165 companies are community members. On the crucial metric of contributors, OpenStack outstrips CloudStack.

An analysis of committer server log files shows 226 contributors to the latest release of OpenStack. Rackspace, Piston, and Nebula, all companies with OpenStack products, figure prominently, but so does HP, Red Hat, and Citrix itself. Also contributing, developers from Cisco Systems, SUSE, Canonical, and Dreamhost.

So we have two open source projects in a broad field. There's no harm in that. I would just caution that in previous cases of competing projects, the early dominant project has tended to become thoroughly dominant in the long run, as long as the community around it was sustained. JBoss overwhelmed Geronimo; Sun, releasing Java as open source, took away much of Harmony's reason to exist.

I hope OpenStack and CloudStack will evolve with distinct goals, gain equal but separate reputations, and maintain themselves in independent communities to provide choice for cloud builders. I hope so, but I'm not betting on it.

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