Citrix CTO On Demanding Clarity From Cloud Vendors

Citrix Systems CTO Simon Crosby sat down with Andrew Conry Murray at Interop 2011 for a candid question-and-answer session on a variety of subjects, including emerging cloud power centers--Citrix is a major player in some. The company is also pushing emerging standards on a variety of fronts, including cloud computing and application performance. Crosby talked about the company's goals for these efforts. He also advised IT to demand more vendor clarity about the cloud.

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Citrix Systems CTO Simon Crosby sat down with Andrew Conry Murray at Interop 2011 for a candid question-and-answer session on a variety of subjects, including emerging cloud power centers--Citrix is a major player in some. The company is also pushing emerging standards on a variety of fronts, including cloud computing and application performance. Crosby talked about the company's goals for these efforts. He also advised IT to demand more vendor clarity about the cloud.

Conry Murray: Citrix CEO Mark Templeton described four power centers that seem to be emerging in the cloud: Amazon/Xen, VMware, Microsoft Azure, and OpenStack. Do you agree with that assessment, and would you modify it in any way?

Crosby: I think it's right. Certainly, Amazon has an enormous lead. I think the outage of a few weeks ago and subsequent explanation of how they fixed it shows how hard it is to run a public cloud service.

Conry Murray: Do you think these power centers will change over time?

Crosby: The traditional service provider segment wants to be a part of this. You'll see more acquisitions as service providers look to add to their portfolios; so Verizon took out Terremark, and you'll see others. And you'll see specialization. There will be geographic specializations to address compliance issues of where data can be stored. There will be a phenomenal adoption of cloud in Japan because they are going to have 25% less power in the coming summer.Conry Murray: Amazon/Xen is clearly a player in public cloud. Is Citrix conceding the private cloud to VMware?

Crosby: Pounding your head against VMware is a bad idea. They've won the hearts of VMware IT admins. Just like Cisco established a new skill set category in networking, VMware has established a new career path for IT, and the company delivers a good product. Tackling VMware to be the back-end IT automation vendor? We have no inclination to that. Citrix doesn't sell IT automation. VMware's opportunity is to displace Microsoft, BMC, HP, etc. XenServer itself has maybe 15% market share in the enterprise. Relatively few customers have made us the strategic partner for full enterprise virtualization. But we are in tactical and departmental deployments.

But we've found ourselves, courtesy of Xen, being in the public cloud. We've been led into big, massively scalable clouds and because of that, we've learned how cloud infrastructure is built. Our place in big, scalable clouds has pushed us to the front of innovation in scale and cost. We've learned how to deliver cloud infrastructure at 1/20th of the price.

We've brought that thinking to serve XenDesktop [Citrix's desktop virtualization and application delivery product]. So we can deliver lower [total cost of ownership] for desktop virtualization--as much as 60% lower because we can take of advantage of local storage and optimize I/O to reduce 90% of I/O on the network.

Conry Murray: OpenStack is an industry effort to build open source technologies for the cloud. What do you envision as Citrix's role in OpenStack?Crosby: Our goal is to have the core components of networking services built into OpenStack. For instance, elastic load balancing should be in there. At every layer of the stack in OpenStack you should have APIs where you can add in value at that layer if you want, like NetScaler. We are working closely with Cisco there. Cisco has come on board and been a real ally.

Not long ago, people thought Cisco was in bed with VMware. We see customers building out cloud for [infrastructure as a service] using [the Unified Computing System]. So Cisco has turned into an active community member in OpenStack and the Open Networking Foundation, around the open virtual switch.

Conry Murray: Citrix announced a new standards effort, AppFlow, which aims to provide more information about application performance. Can you talk about the motivation behind AppFlow and its objectives? Are you going to bring AppFlow to a standards body?

Crosby: That's the aspiration. We want it to be entirely open and bring the industry to it. We think it delivers new insights that are of value in the cloud world. Traditionally, the metrics you get from cloud instrumentation have been of a low level. You can now provide instrumentation at the layer of the app. You can get more fluent in terms of what's going on inside the app, and then inform tools how to scale and what to scale.

Conry Murray: What standards body would you like to see take it up?Crosby: There isn't a home well identified yet. It's not the traditional IETF world. It's part of a conversation with other vendors. In general, going into existing organizations is great because they have frameworks, but where it belongs is an interesting conversation.

Conry Murray: In a roundtable discussion at Interop, you discussed the important role of open source innovation. But proprietary software and hardware also play a role in innovation, and I'm thinking in particular about VMware and Apple. How do you see the forces of open source and proprietary technology interacting when it comes to innovation?

Crosby:I think it's a race argument. If you are far in the lead, why would you throw it to open source? But open source is a tool to strategically advance certain sectors of the industry to maintain balance and achieve a rate of innovation.

Take cloud and IaaS. If there were 50 vendors going on about IaaS, the clutter would be so bad that the incumbent would walk away with it all. For us, the goal in terms of an effort like OpenStack is to align the industry around a vehicle to meet commercial needs but also move faster to deliver core components that people are fighting around that has no long-term commercial value.

It's like the Margherita pizza: cheese, sauce, crust. Those are the basic ingredients and you build something on top of it. Look at companies building applications and services on top of Amazon EC2 and S3. OpenStack will create more opportunity for CPU vendors, server vendors, storage vendors, and others who will build on top of it.Conry Murray: Do IT professionals have a clear idea of what the cloud is at this point?

Crosby: I don't think general IT has a clear idea of cloud and what it is. It's such a massive shift that every vendor has to be cloud-relevant. So all we vendors are responsible for "clouding" the definition. Cloud to the average IT server person means more automated steps. For many customers I visit, cloud means desktops delivered from a cloud. And then there are folks we work with who are of the Zynga type, where the Zynga cloud has to scale massively and run this monster app at huge scale with incredible performance. All those people have different notions of cloud.

You have to clearly define your goals in terms of what technology ought to deliver to you: change your costs, accelerate delivery, whatever. Then go to vendors and beat up on them to explain it better.

About the Author(s)

Andrew Conry-Murray

Former Director of Content & Community

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