5 takeaways from the CloudStack-OpenStack dustup

Citrix(s ctsx) stunned its OpenStack partners with news on Tuesday that it is setting up CloudStack as an Apache-based rival to the OpenStack cloud platform.
There’s been a lot of jawing and some bad feelings on both sides: OpenStack wasn’t ready for primetime; Citrix was disloyal, yada yada yada. But now as the smoke starts to clear, here are some key takeaways from the latest cloud spat.

1: The API debate is (still) over

Amazon(s amzn) won. CloudStack’s support of the Amazon API confirms this, much as the Amazon-Eucalyptus deal did a few weeks ago. (Eucalyptus — another OpenStack rival — claims compatibility with the Amazon APIs in a move that should make it easier for private clouds running Eucalyptus to interoperate with workloads in the Amazon public cloud.)  As Forrester Research analyst James Staten blogged:

“Like Eucalyptus, Citrix CloudStack provides API compatibility with Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). The OpenStack community is debating the degree of compatibility its software should have with this de facto and clearly proprietary API set. Citrix no longer has to debate this issue or be beholden to the OpenStack group decision here which looks to be leaning away from EC2 compatibility.”

Still, there’s support and then there’s support — and there is real confusion about which clouds support which Amazon APIs.  As Adrian Cockroft, Netflix’ director of architecture of cloud systems, tweeted Tuesday:

Also, there’s considerable disagreement about allowing Amazon to set the API table is really a good thing. But it’s clear it has done so.

2:  Multi-cloud is huge

Despite the furor around whether or not Citrix threw OpenStack under the bus and fractured the open-source cloud alliance against Amazon, the fact is that many companies are weighing or already running multi-cloud solutions. Some do so to mitigate risk, and others because some clouds suit some uses better than others.  And if you’re of that mindset, what’s one more cloud among friends?
Recent research by Rightscale, a company that provides a dashboard and management tools for all the clouds, shows that 87 percent of its customers are deploying multiple clouds, up from 84 percent in September.

3: Rackspace needs to loosen up

Critics say Rackspace has not sufficiently loosened its grip on the OpenStack effort, which it launched with NASA in 2010, and that control is hurting the cause. When Rackspace announced plans for a more open OpenStack Foundation last fall, it pledged to relinquish control — something that critics say it has not yet done.
In the CloudAve blog, cloud expert Krishan Subramanian wrote that CloudStack’s move will force OpenStack to act more forcefully — and quickly.

Now, the OpenStack Foundation will be forced to have a more democratic and more equitable solution to the problem. Any failure to do so will ultimately result in smaller players, who feel less appreciated or ignored, quietly move to the Apache CloudStack ecosystem. I think that this announcement will add considerable pressure on Rackspace and the rest of the OpenStack community to work together to set up the foundation right.

4:  OpenStack needs to get the lead out

CloudStack — which Citrix bought along with Cloud.com for $200 million last year — may well be more mature than OpenStack and have more features, but it has less mindshare. Putting that effort into the Apache realm should make it more palatable for corporate use, since it’s no longer controlled (ahem) by one company. That means OpenStack really needs to get its house in order both in terms of governance and feature parity.
In short, with Eucalyptus back in the game, CloudStack gaining momentum, and OnApp — which enables web hosting companies to federate clouds — signing on more service providers, “the window for OpenStack to become the Linux of IaaS is beginning to close,” wrote Forrester’s Staten. (For more on federated clouds, see this GigaOM Pro report, subscription required.)

5:  OpenStack Spring should be a big show

The OpenStack Conference in a few weeks should be interesting given the recent hubbub. Citrix said one reason it went its own way was that OpenStack development was in the slow lane. Look for big time OpenStack partners — including Hewlett-Packard(s hpq)  — to highlight their OpenStack-based goodies.  Biri Singh, VP and GM of HP’s cloud services unit will be among the keynoters in San Francisco.
Now more than ever, OpenStack needs its big boy customers and partners to step up and show that the infrastructure is ready for prime time, is not under Rackspace’s thumb, and can take on Amazon — and now CloudStack as well.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user indi.ca