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CloudStack vs. OpenStack: Real World versus Emerging

posted Nov 25, 2011, 1:47 AM by Bill Digman

One overlooked trend in cloud computing is CloudStack. The CloudStack framework is a bit of an outlier if you will as it just doesn't seem to get the media attention as the other solutions, yet is much more mature and battle hardened.

What CloudStack lacks in hype it makes up for in real deployments and real world use. It is not something in the works. It works. It escapes the vaporware pattern that is so common in the cloud space. 

Here is a framework that a lot of cloud hosting providers use because they can private label it. It's really hard to gauge the impact of CloudStack on the market as cloud hosting providers can white label it. It's hard to tell they are actually using it, but they are.

CloudStack, open source software written in Java,  allows management and deployment of large networks of virtual machines. CloudStack supports hypervisors VMware, Oracle VM (Xen variant), KVM, XenServer and Xen Cloud Platform.

CloudStack provides a AJAX RIA web interface, command line and a full-featured RESTful API. It even provides a compatibility layer with Amazon Web services so that you can use the REST interfaces from EC2 and S3 with CloudStack. This is important as Amazon WS REST interface is so pervasive. It is the current lingua franca of cloud computing. It is the very pervasiveness of Amazon's REST interface that encourages companies to rally around OpenStack.

Now while OpenStack is the media darling, as of November 2011, there is only one public cloud that is offering OpenStack and its not even RackSpace. OpenStack is the one everyone's talking about. CloudStack is actually the one that everyone's using. If you're not Amazon WS and you decide to provide cloud hosting there's a good chance you're using CloudStack. There are few players outside the top five that provide cloud hosting that are not using CloudStack. It's pretty pervasive. GoDaddy.com recently decided to offer cloud hosting and guess who they are using that's right they are using CloudStack.

Why would GoDaddy.com pick CloudStack as well as 60+ other smaller cloud hosting players? It could be because "CloudStack provides a turnkey cloud infrastructure software stack for delivering virtual datacenters as a service – delivering all of the essential components used to build, deploy, and manage multi-tier and multi-tenant cloud applications in a simple to install software package."

If you are setting up a public cloud hosting, or even private and hybrid cloud offerings, CloudStack makes it almost a turnkey solution. CloudStack is like C-Panel or Plesk but for cloud hosting, and hybrid cloud solutions providers instead of hostings providers of yore. Just add the hardware and you are now a cloud provider.

Cloud computing is very much like sex in high school. Everyone's talking about it and few people are actually doing it. But of the people that are actually doing things with private cloud computing, hosted cloud computing and public cloud computing, a lot of them are using CloudStack.

It is not just public cloud hosting where CloudStack is ruling the roost of solutions. RighScale supports CloudStack (Cloud.com) via its myCloud private cloud solution. RightScale provides a single pane of glass on private and public cloud computing, i.e., hybrid cloud computing. One of their products can either use Eucalyptus or CloudStack (Cloud.com) that product is called myCloud.

Zynga created one of the most famous hybrid clouds in existence. Although there aren't really that many of them in existence and certainly not many at this scale. Zynga seems to be a real innovator when it comes to cloud computing and scalability. You may not have heard of Zynga. They created Farmville. And I'm quite sure if you use Facebook and you had any relatives over the age of 50 you have heard of Farmville. With their incessant invitations to join their farm collectives.

Zynga hybrid cloud is called Z Cloud. Zynga uses CloudStack (Cloud.com), and RightScale. If their instances are at capacity they can also spin up servers running on Amazon WS (EC2) to take some of the load. Zynga can save money by hosting apps on their own infrastructure, find a baseline and buy to that baseline, but if/when games go viral and they need more capacity, they can move servers to Amazon EC2 to handle the extra load. RightScale provides the single pane of glass interface for both Zynga’s public EC2 resources and private CloudStack (Cloud.com) resources. This is possible because of CloudStack's CloudBridge that supports Amazon WS REST interfaces.

If you are thinking of deploying a private cloud or a hybrid cloud, CloudStack is a solution that you can use today. OpenStack is an emerging solution that you will be able to use some day. You will need to see where OpenStack is in six months, and since OpenStack is a standard not a product, you will need to find products that have the features sets you need.

This is not to say that OpenStack does not have potential, because it does. It is just to say you can't deploy potential to production. If you need to deploy something soon, then CloudStack is a good pick.

Cloud.com, the original company behind CloudStack, was an early adopter of OpenStack and one of the founding alliance members. Citrix, who bought Cloud.com, is also an OpenStack alliance member. Cloud.com was working on adding OpenStack REST APIs to CloudStack prior to the acquisition. Citrix plans on continuing this work, and working on Project Olympus which is a solution focused solely on OpenStack. Thus Citrix will have two products that support OpenStack: Project Olympus and Citrix CloudStack.

Since CloudStack will be supporting OpenStack and it is a product you can use today, it seems like a good pick today. Also its support of OpenStack will make it a good pick for the future.

According to Citrix's blog: "CloudStack and OpenStack are highly synergistic by design. They share the same core principles, architectures and beliefs about how real clouds should be built. Bringing them together in this acquisition is a key part of our strategy."

CloudStack core features from Cloud.com site.


Core Features:

  • Multi-Tenant cloud computing platform
  • Compatible with Commodity or Enterprise Components
  • Broad Hypervisor Support (Xenserver, KVM, VMware vSphere)
  • Scalable Architecture (manage thousands of hosts and virtual machine guests)
  • High Availability configurations to provide automatic fail-over for virtual machines
  • Easy-to-Use AJAX-enabled web interface
  • Configurable to deploy public, private and hybrid clouds 
  • Virtual Networking to segment network traffic into VLANs
  • Robust API 
  • Amazon EC2 Compatibility layer
  • Written in Java for proven reliability
  • Ability to define service level definitions with specific resource footprints
  • Open Source, available under the GPL version 3
CloudStack Architecture


Check back here for more thoughts on OpenStack and CloudStack.

Thanks for reading.

Mammatus Tech provides cloud computing consulting and training.
Please come check us out. We are offering a course on cloud computing for executives that shows the ROI and economics of cloud computing as well as strategies for adoption and how cloud computing can change your whole IT ecosystem. 

(This post originally appeared on Robert Paulson's blog and was duplicated with permission)


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