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Citrix Cloudstack 3.0: Better Networking, Bigger Community, Improved Orchestration

Cloudstack 3.0 adds support for Xen Server 6.0 with tighter integration with the hypervisor and tight integration with Citrix's Netscaler application delivery controller. In addition, Citrix is launching its Citrix Cloud Community, which certifies product and service integration with Citrix's partners. The new features in Cloudstack ease integration with other products and services used by IT, and create a certification program other vendors can participate in. The net result is an improved orchestration platform on which your company can base a private cloud.

According to the InformationWeek Analytics 2011 research report Service Oriented IT, only 10% of organizations have no automation and only 11% are highly automated. The remaining 79% are automating their IT to some degree. There are a number of benefits to automation, from quicker service provisioning to fewer configuration errors. Other benefits include providing a service catalog that lets users see the cost per project and enables IT to better track resource use and expenses. Before you can get those additional benefits, IT needs an orchestration and automation system to lay the ground work. Citrix's Cloudstack 3.0 is one such foundation.

Cloudstack integration of Xenserver 6.0 goes well beyond the typical control-plane functions such as starting, stopping, pausing and destroying a virtual machine. The integration exposes features to Cloudstack, such as configuring the networking, storage and security parameters of the hypervisor across pods and multiple data centers. It doesn't go as far as other orchestration platforms such as Microsoft System Center 2012, but provides bare-metal provisioning of Xenserver. Citrix claims Cloudstack can manage tens of thousands of servers via one management system. It integrates directly with Xenserver 6.0, providing direct access to Xenserver features, which is what allows Cloudstack to scale management to a high number of servers.

Cloudstack also adds what Citrix calls networking as a service (NaaS), which is an awful name and acronym, but the company is trying to describe integrated network management features. The networking improvements are designed around centralized management of the networking components within hypervisors, as well as centralized management of Citrix's Netscaler SDX appliances and VPX virtual appliances. Cloudstack can integrate with physical switches, but that is done through third-party integration. Via Cloudstack 3.0, administrators can create and manage VLANs and virtual routers on Xenserver vswtiches. The configuration control doesn't extend to physical switches. The networking management, along with Citrix's CloudBridge, goes so far as to offer elastic IP similar to Amazon's Elastic IP, where the IP address of a host can move with the VM across pods or even data centers, ensuring a seamless migration of hosts from location to location.

The integration with Netscaler is relatively advanced, allowing full administration of Netscaler's load balancing, VPN and routing functionality within Cloudstack. Unlike other cloud management products like Microsoft's System Center 2012, which has limited integration with Netscaler, such as discovering the virtual IP and joining an existing pool, Cloudstack can create new application pools, add servers to them, create virtual IPs, and define load balancing and optimization functions.

Cloudstack has simplified the application deployment process using a drag-and-drop interface that allows administrators to draw the network connections and networking configuration policies in Cloudstack, as well as hides the networking details from view. A number of orchestration products try to make service provisioning as simple as possible by hiding the complex interactions and dependencies from view. The goal is to integrate your IT systems once and then provide a service catalog to end users, whether they are IT or business users.

Citrix, like other orchestration vendors, can't supply all of the automation features for all of the potential products customers might use. To support third-party integration, Citrix has launched Citrix Cloud Community, which is an integration program that certifies third-party products to work with Cloudstack 3.0 and is similar to the Citrix Ready program. Cloudstack Community launched with 2,200 services and products, with more planned.