Today's move by Citrix to put its CloudStack IaaS solution into the Apache Foundation says more about the state of the cloud market than it does about OpenStack. As our Fall 2011 Forrsights Hardware Survey shows, about 36% of enterprise IT leaders are prioritizing and planning to invest in IaaS this year. That means they need solutions today and thus service providers and cloud software vendors need answers they can take to market now. OpenStack, while progressing well, simply isn't at this point yet.

Second, Citrix needed to clarify the position of its current open source–based solution. Ever since Citrix joined OpenStack, its core technology has been in somewhat of a limbo state. The code in overlaps with a lot of the OpenStack code base, and Citrix's official stance had been that when OpenStack was ready, it would incorporate it. This made it hard for a service provider or enterprise to bet on CloudStack today, under fear that they would have to migrate to OpenStack over time. That might still happen, as Citrix has kept the pledge to incorporate OpenStack software if and when the time is right but they are clearly betting their fortunes on's success. 
There are myriad other benefits that come from this move. Two of the biggest are:
  • Code contributions should accelerate. CloudStack was covered under the GPL 3.0 license and lived in a community that was 100% backed by Citrix. These two factors held back a large swath of developers from contributing code to the project. Apache is where these developers live and the Apache License 2.0 is greatly preferred by both enterprise and vendor contributors. 
  • No API debates. 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. 
For a company that needs revenue now and has a more mature solution, a break away from OpenStack, while politically unpopular, is clearly the right business decision. The key question this raises is whether the move will be followed by others who need revenue now. At the fall 2011 OpenStack Design Summit there was a low rumble of discontent that the OpenStack code was not maturing fast enough. That started a clock that was, it seemed, ticking down to the Essex release, due in April, as the first release that would be ready for commercial deployment. Citrix at least is signaling that this isn't the case. Evidence provided by other vendor and enterprise members of this community suggest that Citrix is not alone in this sentiment. If this proves true then the clock will be reset to September's Folsom release of OpenStack but the ticking will be much louder.
With Eucalyptus staging a revival, cloudstack breaking away, and OnApp locking in service provider customers, the window for OpenStack to become the Linux of IaaS is beginning to close. 
As an enterprise buyer, what does this mean to you and where should you place your bets? If you need to get a cloud up and running today and want an open source–based solution there are two clear options — Eucalyptus and Apache CloudStack. Both were evaluated in our Private Cloud Market Overview so you can see how they stack up to each other. Both have single vendor distribution and support (Cannonical also distributes and supports Eucalyptus but has recently pledged to distribute OpenStack — and did so very visibly at last fall's OpenStack Design Summit). Both have pledged AWS EC2 API compatibility and both are widely supported by cloud management tools such as Rightscale, EnStratus, and others. And both have enterprise and service provider customers who are in market today and publicly reference-able. 
If you plan to deploy your cloud solution later in the year, at a minimum you owe it to yourself to download the bits from these players and OpenStack, after the Essex release comes out, and see for yourself.