Summary:

Citrix today announced the first commercial distribution of the open source OpenStack cloud-computing software, which Citrix ix calling Project Olympus. It’s a bold move to announce an OpenStack distribution so early into the project’s existence, but Citrix must to something to combat bitter rival VMware.

man in clouds

It was just a matter of time before someone commercialized the open-source OpenStack cloud-computing software, and Citrix today became that someone with the launch of Project Olympus. It’s a bold move to announce an OpenStack distribution so early into the project’s existence — it will be a year old in July — but Citrix has been neck-deep in the project since day one and must do something to combat bitter virtualization rival VMware.

The ultimate product to emerge from Olympus, which the company says will be available later this year, includes “a Citrix-certified version of OpenStack and a cloud-optimized version of Citrix XenServer.” Citrix has been very involved with making OpenStack run optimally atop XenServer (and, in fact, OpenStack leader Rackspace’s cloud uses XenServer at the hypervisor layer), but the beauty of OpenStack is that it’s, well, open. The most-recent release supports the VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM (read “Red Hat”) hypervisors as well as XenServer.

Speaking of VMware, it’s likely the very reason that Citrix got involved with OpenStack and why it’s the first to market with a commercial OpenStack product. VMware has been driving much of the cloud discussion with its vCloud suite of cloud-management tools and service-provider partnerships that enable both hybrid clouds and easy application portability.

OpenStack gives Citrix an avenue to counter. Now, Citrix has a community-built and tested cloud-platform software, as well as at least two public cloud partners — Rackspace and Internap — to address the issues of hybrid clouds and portability. The latter two capabilities are possible because all OpenStack clouds use the same core software and APIs. Project Olympus also includes other Citrix technology, such as its Cloud Networking fabric that the company claims lets users perform networking as a service.

During the Early Access Program that Citrix is now running, registered participants will receive the Project Olympus software and will have access to hardware, software and a reference architecture from Dell to get their test environments up and running quickly. Rackspace will provide deployment support via its Cloud Builders program.

And, if there’s any truth to rumors that fellow OpenStack contributor Cisco is interested in buying Citrix, Project Olympus should only sweeten the pot. Already, Cisco has been active in the cloud software space by acquiring self-service portal newScale a few weeks ago.

It’s an interesting time to be involved with cloud computing, as the major players are really starting to shape up. Amazon Web Services and VMware have been receiving the lion’s share of attention, but OpenStack has been stealing a fair amount of the spotlight the past several months. Now that it’s close to production-ready and already has a commercial ecosystem in place, we might expect to see it rival those two companies in terms of attracting developers.

All of this makes me even more excited for Structure 2011, which takes place June 22-23 in San Francisco. The conference includes appearances by Citrix CTO Simon Crosby, VMware CEO Paul Maritz, Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, Cisco Cloud CTO Lew Tucker and Rackspace Cloud President Lew Moorman, as well as by numerous cloud startups that are trying to steal some of the thunder from these big names.

Image courtesy of Flickr user ewan and donabel.

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