Little surprise in Citrix's Cloud.com purchase

Another chess move in three-way battle with Xen, VMware, and KVM

Citrix's purchase of Cloud.com today is one of those announcements that shouldn't have surprised anyone.

The deal, the amount of which has not been officially disclosed, is reported to be somewhere between $200 and $250 million.

Cloud.com is what is known as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud provider similar to the services provided by Amazon's EC2. Cloud.com, though, plays in the private-cloud arena, giving customers their cloud capabilities behind the company firewall. It is also, tellingly, a key participant in the OpenStack project, which puts Citrix right into the middle of an open source ecosystem right from the get go.

There's quite a bit of speculation as to why Citrix snapped up Cloud.com, but clearly there was some destiny involved.

The reason why this acquisition was preordained is because the commercial version of CloudStack has supported Citrix's XenServer virtualization software (as well as VMware's vSphere and open source hypervisor Xen) for quite a while. Citrix, meanwhile, has optimized XenServer for OpenStack as part of Project Olympus, which is also is being supported by Rackspace, the commercial sponsor of OpenStack, and Dell.

All of the pieces, then, have been in place for a Citrix acquisition of Cloud.com. Today's purchase is just the culmination of about a year's worth of positioning.

It will be curious to see how Citrix meshes with the product line held by Cloud.com.

Cloud.com's CloudStack platform is licensed under the GPL, but Cloud.com sold a commercial enterprise version of its CloudStack program which puts CloudStack in the "open core" category of software: software that is open for all, but better for paying customers.

What's ironic about this is that OpenStack, a project in which both Citrix and Cloud.com have participated, got started because a prominent customer got fed up with another open core cloud service and formed the open source OpenStack project with Rackspace.

When NASA was building their Nebula infrastructure cloud, they opted to work with Eucalyptus, another open core provider of cloud infrastructure software.

But it wasn't a smooth fit. NASA was unable to get some of its enhancements into the Eucalyptus code base because those improvements were too close to the functionality of Eucalyptus' commercial add-ons, and were thus rejected. NASA, frustrated with this and unwilling to buy Eucalyptus' commercial product, re-dedicated the entire Nebula team to creating a new fabric controller, known as Nova.

Nova would eventually become a component within the OpenStack platform launched this time last year.

Now we see another open core company in strong alliance with OpenStack, acquired by a pure commercial software company--which also has strong connections to OpenStack (Citrix was a founding member of OpenStack when Rackspace launched it last year).

For the cameras, Citrix is remaining committed to the open source aspects of this technology:

"A key part of this commitment to openness is a full embrace of open source as an essential element of cloud computing. In addition to providing leadership in communities like Xen.org at the virtualization layer, this acquisition will help Citrix further accelerate its support of OpenStack, the popular open source cloud infrastructure movement that now includes over 1,100 cloud developers, and more than 80 member companies. As a founding member of Openstack.org, Citrix is the second largest contributor to the project and is a member of the OpenStack policy board."

Right, nothing unexpected there.

All of these chess moves have been part of a broader strategy to provide potential VMware customers as many different alternative cloud services as possible, to block VMware's planned domination of all things cloud.

Will it work? Certainly in terms of technology, the Citrix/Cloud.com merger is a strong fit. And the continued alliance with OpenStack will definitely help fend off VMware.

If it wasn't clear before, it's clear now: the future of virtualization is going to pivot around one of three virtualization technologies: Citrix's XenServer and Xen; VMware's ESX and vSphere; and Red Hat and the Open Virtualization Alliance's KVM.

Today's Citrix's buy of Cloud.com only solidifies this three-way competition.

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