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5/10/2011
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Citrix CTO Advises Demanding Clarity From Vendors On Cloud

Cloud thought leader Simon Crosby talks about standards, open source, Xen's power center, and where VMware kicks butt.

Citrix Systems CTO Simon Crosby sat down with InformationWeek at Interop 2011 for a candid question-and-answer session on a variety of subjects, including emerging cloud power centers--Citrix is a major player in some. The company is also pushing emerging standards on a variety of fronts, including cloud computing and application performance. Crosby talked about the company's goals for these efforts. He also advised IT to demand more vendor clarity about the cloud.

InformationWeek: Citrix CEO Mark Templeton described four power centers that seem to be emerging in the cloud: Amazon/Xen, VMware, Microsoft Azure, and OpenStack. Do you agree with that assessment, and would you modify it in any way?

Crosby: I think it's right. Certainly, Amazon has an enormous lead. I think the outage of a few weeks ago and subsequent explanation of how they fixed it shows how hard it is to run a public cloud service.

InformationWeek: Do you think these power centers will change over time?

Crosby: The traditional service provider segment wants to be a part of this. You'll see more acquisitions as service providers look to add to their portfolios; so Verizon took out Terremark , and you'll see others. And you'll see specialization. There will be geographic specializations to address compliance issues of where data can be stored. There will be a phenomenal adoption of cloud in Japan because they are going to have 25% less power in the coming summer.

InformationWeek: Amazon/Xen is clearly a player in public cloud. Is Citrix conceding the private cloud to VMware?

Crosby: Pounding your head against VMware is a bad idea. They've won the hearts of VMware IT admins. Just like Cisco established a new skill set category in networking, VMware has established a new career path for IT, and the company delivers a good product. Tackling VMware to be the back-end IT automation vendor? We have no inclination to that. Citrix doesn't sell IT automation. VMware's opportunity is to displace Microsoft, BMC, HP, etc.

XenServer itself has maybe 15% market share in the enterprise. Relatively few customers have made us the strategic partner for full enterprise virtualization. But we are in tactical and departmental deployments.

But we've found ourselves, courtesy of Xen, being in the public cloud. We've been led into big, massively scalable clouds and because of that, we've learned how cloud infrastructure is built. Our place in big, scalable clouds has pushed us to the front of innovation in scale and cost. We've learned how to deliver cloud infrastructure at 1/20th of the price.

We've brought that thinking to serve XenDesktop [Citrix's desktop virtualization and application delivery product]. So we can deliver lower [total cost of ownership] for desktop virtualization--as much as 60% lower because we can take of advantage of local storage and optimize I/O to reduce 90% of I/O on the network.

InformationWeek: OpenStack is an industry effort to build open source technologies for the cloud. What do you envision as Citrix's role in OpenStack?

Crosby: Our goal is to have the core components of networking services built into OpenStack. For instance, elastic load balancing should be in there. At every layer of the stack in OpenStack you should have APIs where you can add in value at that layer if you want, like NetScaler. We are working closely with Cisco there. Cisco has come on board and been a real ally.

Not long ago, people thought Cisco was in bed with VMware. We see customers building out cloud for [infrastructure as a service] using [the Unified Computing System]. So Cisco has turned into an active community member in OpenStack and the Open Networking Foundation, around the open virtual switch.

InformationWeek: Citrix announced a new standards effort, AppFlow, which aims to provide more information about application performance. Can you talk about the motivation behind AppFlow and its objectives? Are you going to bring AppFlow to a standards body?

Crosby: That's the aspiration. We want it to be entirely open and bring the industry to it. We think it delivers new insights that are of value in the cloud world. Traditionally, the metrics you get from cloud instrumentation have been of a low level. You can now provide instrumentation at the layer of the app. You can get more fluent in terms of what's going on inside the app, and then inform tools how to scale and what to scale.

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