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Citrix buys Cloud.com – Brief Note

Citrix announced the acquisition of Cloud.com this morning hoping to flesh out its long-running cloud road-map. This Brief Note covers what this means for Citrix and provides some background.

Summary

There’s some clear motivations for Citrix:

  • Filling whitespace – Citrix has long spoken about cloud computing, but they’ve yet to make a big splash on the overall scene. By purchasing Cloud.com, Citrix might be able to finally fill in the potential they’ve been marketecting for themselves over recent years.
  • Move from call centers to cloud – In the long term, Citrix needs to come up with new lines of business around virtualization and cloud computing to replace (or supplement) the “cash cow” of its legacy, desktop business. That BU could be revitalized if the whole idea of virtualized desktops takes off, but that’s been rocky when it comes to blow-out acceptance.
  • As real a deal as you’ll find – Cloud.com is regarded as one of the more “real” cloud offerings out there, building a respectable story over the short years they’ve been around. They’ve built up a nice list of public references out of 65 reported customers overall, including KT, a large public cloud project that most every serious cloud player is currently involved with (you hear all sorts of things good and bad about it, sure, but it provides an ongoing test of this whole “cloud” idea beyond Amazon).

The Citrix Context

If you’re like most people I talk with, you’re probably like, “Citrix…?” Indeed! Citrix is one of those under-appreciate, billion dollar companies. They started out with technology to host desktops on servers (think thin clients and call centers) and with their purchase of XenSource some years ago have been expanding into general IT management and, now, cloud. One of their core assets (and liabilities, the tin-foil hats would say, when it comes to portfolio expansion) is a long-standing, bi-directionally beneficial relationship with Microsoft (needed to make their thin client technology extra, super-magical).

Here’s their revenue by business unit since 2009, the red line is the virtualization and cloud gaggle:

How good is Citrix at capitalizing on acquisitions? It’s difficult to track what they’ve done with XenServer exactly, but it seems like they’ve done well. The Xen brand certainly took over most of Citrix, but because they bundle their NetScaler product line together with XenServer, you can’t perfectly track revenue for the “Data Center and Cloud Solutions” business unit. (And, indeed, NetScaler seems to have “lead” revenue for this BU in the most recent quarter). But, hey, when has tracking product line revenue ever been easy from the outside?

Last year the Data Center and Cloud Solutions BU reported $298.6 in revenue (up from $231.4M in 2009). As the chart below shows, it’s still a smaller part of overall company revenue, and smaller than the Citrix Online BU (home of GoToMeeting and other GoTo products):

As some rough comparisons: VMware brought in $844 million company-wide in the last quarter of 2010 and $2.9 Billion for all of 2010, most of that, no doubt, around virtualization and “data center management” – the Spring revenue is probably small compared to the overall VMW cash-pie. And when it comes to market share, I continue to see numbers that show VMware far in the lead, by large margins, with Microsoft’s Hyper-V a distant second, and Xen third, down there with the other hyper-visors.

But, with Gartner reckoning that “at least 40%” of x86 machines are virtualized, just to pick one estimate out of many, there’s all sort of room to close those gaps.

One thing is certain: Citrix has yet finished its cloud strategy over the years. Their CEO, Mark Templeton is extremely charismatic and along with the recently departed Simon Crosby (check out his note on the Cloud.com buy) can talk a good vision on cloud. Their presence in cloud, despite all that Xen-driven cloud, hasn’t been as much as it should be. Hopefully, the Cloud.com team (who seems to be taking a leadership role) can help accelerate that.

Back to Cloud.com

By coincidence, I recently wrote-up my current thoughts on Cloud.com in response to a press inquiry:

Cloud.com has a few things going for it: based on their momentum, their software seems to work, which is saying a lot for something as new as cloud computing. Many of the “real cloud” projects out there require a tremendous amount of what we used to call Systems Integration (now “cloud integration”?) work to make up for immature software. From what I’ve heard, Cloud.com seems to be suitably functional for its age.

The other thing that they’ve wisely done (and, I hope, will continue to do) is set a course for merging with OpenStack. I’m not too sure what that will mean, but the overall community around OpenStack is looking hopeful. And, again, while OpenStack isn’t “done” yet, the progress they’re making, so far, is encouraging. Several, though by no means all, large, customer rich, vendors are looking around for cloud stacks to standardize on and the short list is often coming up at VMware, OpenStack (once it gets out of the oven), and one or two more. In that context, aligning itself with OpenStack, in the road-map sense, probably gives Cloud.com a larger future than it’d have if it was still a cloud island.

Those comments still apply – indeed, I only hear more about (mostly vendor) desire to move to OpenStack, if only as the “other” next to VMware in private cloud. What I’d look for from Citrix is simply adding gas to the fire, as it were. From their comments, Citrix is all over the OpenStack angle, so I would expect Cloud.com to continue “merging” with OpenStack. As some of the press release text says, “Citrix will accelerate its support of OpenStack.”

On the developer front, Amazon still rules and I rarely hear anything about “private cloud” (this is developers, not IT folks). One of the keys to developer-driven cloud adoption is quickly slotting yourself into the cloud development tool-chain. The lunatic fringe (those developers I pay the most attention to) has been going on about how it’s all “culture” and not “technology,” and while I have sympathy with that argument, I’ve been seeing a pretty consistent, if wiggly, tool-chain adopted by developers. Someone like Citrix+Cloud.com (and all the other Elder Companies buying gel to slick up their hair) needs to get into that tool-chain or, if you’re the likes of VMware/SpringSource, build your own from an existing mega-community.

The bottom line is that everything is still very early in the cloud market: few people are delivering it, there’s still a lot of plain old virtualization left, and we still can’t even figure out if public or private cloud is “better.” Now is still a good time to try and get a foot in the door before someone comes along with an axe.

Side-note

As disclosed below, Cloud.com is a client, and has been for a few years. Their man in marketing, Peder Ulander has been a friend of RedMonk for sometime now, as has Mark Hinkle. Congrats to the whole team for completing the first major goal of startups, an exit.

More

Disclosure: Cloud.com is a client, as is VMware and Microsoft. See the RedMonk client list for related folks.

Categories: Cloud, Companies, Enterprise Software, Open Source, Systems Management.

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Links for July 8th through July 11th

Disclosure: see the RedMonk client list for clients mentioned.

Categories: Links.

Links for July 1st through July 7th

Java Hearts

Disclosure: see the RedMonk client list for clients mentioned.

Categories: Links.

Liquid Labs – What's in Your Stack?

In this edition of What’s in Your Stack?, I ask the proprietor of Liquid Labs, Zane Rockenbaugh, how he runs his small, 3 person software development shop focused on client-driven project:

Who are you?

Liquid Labs is a small development and consulting company. Most of our business comes from soup-to-nuts, bespoke web development for small companies, start-ups, and individuals. Currently the company consists of myself and two part time contractors.

How would you describe your development process?

The most important step is to understand what the customer wants and needs. In terms of concrete process, we have high level boxes to tick, like “get the customer a proposal,” but forms and format are often dictated on a case-by-case basis.

In some cases, the customer gives us an idea and we run with it. We do agile-ish development, so the customer can follow along, but the process itself is a black box.

In other instances, the customer comes in with an existing product and/or process. In those cases, we may make suggestions, but part of our job is going to be to fit in with their existing infrastructure and process.

In broad strokes our process is definitely Agile-ish. We get something working fast. We always make sure testing is part of the equation. We engage the customer in on-going dialogue. Specifics, however, would vary from project to project. One might use JIRA, another might use note cards, another a spreadsheet.

What tools are you using?

Lots. On the web side, we’ve got active projects in:

  • Classic AJAX (JavaScript+XML)/PHP/Apache/Postgres
  • Java/JSP/Tomcat/Apache/Postgres
  • Java/GWT/Tomcat Apache/MySQL

We’ve also got a number of desktops app written variously in Ruby, Bash, and Perl. My experience with frameworks is that they really come and go, so if anything, I’m leary of including frameworks in keystone positions.

My favorite tool is probably FireBug. JavaScript’s weakness has always been debugging and editing tools, but FireBug is probably the best runtime visualization and debugging tool I’ve seen.

For version control, it’s SVN. We’re going to migrate our opensource components to Github and are evaluating whether it’s whether or not we should migrate the private SVN repos.

We use many different IDEs and editors. Most have a lot of overlap while some are very useful in specific circumstances.

It’s a similar story with task management tools. We use lots of different bug/task/process management tools. Partially because of client demands, partially because I’ve never found one that hands down fits everything we need to do. Here, I feel like there could be a good solution for us, but either it hasn’t been built yet or we just haven’t found it.

Generic Linux is a common thread, but even here we’ve got projects on XEN/OpenSUSE, as well as EC2/Fedora. We also deal directly with physical infrastructure issues.

If we use a web server, it’s Apache. If we use a app server, it’s Tomcat.

Is it a problem keeping all this straight?

There’s some cost, yes. If we specialized on a rigid tool chain, we could get some efficiency gains, but it would also be limiting and I’m pretty well convinced that for us, the benefits of flexibility outweigh the gains of tool-level specialization.

This wouldn’t be true for everyone, so I’m not fighting the common wisdom so much as saying that Liquid Labs itself is in a different situation. When I look at two programming languages, I immediately think “These things are both 95% the same thing”. To me, they look like very closely related dialects of an arch-typical Turing machine interface. (Prolog would be the one exception of which I can think). Moving between PHP, Ruby, JavaScript, etc. feels to me like I’m changing accents more than changing “language”.

The benefit is we can customize the stack for each project to whatever works best. This is usually “whatever makes the customer happier”. Usually there’s some keystone components where technical considerations dominate. You may need EC2 for some reason, or you may find that the perfect library that does the hard work for you only exists in Java or whatever. But for the most part, it doesn’t make that big a difference technically, so we’ll fit the stack to the project.

Also, for more, check out this interview with Zane from 2007:

Categories: Programming, What's in your stack?.

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Links for June 20th through June 30th

NeXT Hubris

Disclosure: see the RedMonk client list for clients mentioned.

Categories: Links.

On Cloud.com – Press Pass

I recently talked with Steve Wexler in email for a story on Cloud.com where he asked for my overall take on the company. Here’s the Press Pass of what I replied, in full:

Cloud.com has a few things going for it: based on their momentum, their software seems to work, which is saying a lot for something as new as cloud computing. Many of the “real cloud” projects out there require a tremendous amount of what we used to call Systems Integration (now “cloud integration”?) work to make up for immature software. From what I’ve heard, Cloud.com seems to be suitably functional for its age.

The other thing that they’ve wisely done (and, I hope, will continue to do) is set a course for merging with OpenStack. I’m not too sure what that will mean, but the overall community around OpenStack is looking hopeful. And, again, while OpenStack isn’t “done” yet, the progress they’re making, so far, is encouraging. Several, though by no means all, large, customer rich, vendors are looking around for cloud stacks to standardize on and the short list is often coming up at VMware, OpenStack (once it gets out of the oven), and one or two more. In that context, aligning itself with OpenStack, in the road-map sense, probably gives Cloud.com a larger future than it’d have if it was still a cloud island.

Disclosure: Cloud.com and Rackspace are clients, as is VMware.

Categories: Cloud, Press Pass.

Tags:

The State of DevOps with Damon Edwards

While he was in Austin, I asked Damon Edwards to give us an overview of how DTO Solutions has been doing – including Run Deck – and the continuing evolution of DevOps.

If you want to see the luggage we talk about in the opening, here’s a quick picture.

Categories: Agile, Cloud, Programming, RedMonkTV.

Tags: , , ,

Despite much hope, PaaS momentum hasn't blown the doors off yet

Touted at the next thing in cloud, Platform as a Service is receiving much attention now. While PaaS has been far from a failure, it hasn’t been a mega success…yet.

I’ve been talking with several people about Platform as a Service use recently: with all the vendors (and us analysts as well!) going on about how great it is, I’ve been trying to assertion both current momentum and ongoing developer desire. The point of PaaS is to make a developer’s life even easier: you don’t need to manage your cloud deployments at the the lower level of IaaS, or even wire together your Puppet/Chef scripts. The promise of PaaS is similar to that of Java application servers: just write your applications (your business logic) and do magic deployment into the platform, where everything else is taken care of. Pioneers like Heroku have certainly proven that out, initially. Still, aside from that big name in the PaaS space, I very seldom hear developers tell me they’re using PaaS: they still prefer to use the lower-level of IaaS. Indeed, it seems that for many developers, the IaaS layer and tools around it are “good enough” for mow.

Taking Stock

Coming across PaaS usage numbers can be difficult. First, if they report at all, companies typically you how many applications, customers, and/or developers are using the PaaS. Customers is perhaps the only metric that’s not suspect: a paying customer, after all, is a committed customer who, at the very least, is providing revenue to the PaaS provider. Applications can be totally bunk: how many of those are simple “Hello, cloud!” applications, dead applications, duplicates, etc.? Developers is even worse: a “registered developer” could just be someone filling out a form and clicking submit.

I spent some time back in January of this year to round up some numbers, and I’ve found some additional figures which slightly updates those January ones. For example, number of applications deployed on various App Engine, Heroku, and Force.com:

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Each of AppEngine, Force.com, and Heroku are at sub 300,000 applications deployed. Which, is a big number, sure. But how many applications are there in the world? It’s hard to know (and how many are just “Hello, world’s!” and Pet Shops), but:

With those baselines and the estimates of the number of applications in PaaSes, things look luke-warm for PaaS adoption currently.

When it comes to customers, Microsoft Azure and EngineYard are the only ones I can track down:

Check out the raw data for the number of developers, which is perhaps the least helpful figure: akin to tracking downloads in open source horse races.

Sentiment, anecdotes, and other fuzzy analysis

Overall, I don’t hear a lot of excitement about PaaS from developers I speak with. Most of them have used Heroku (I tend to skew towards people who would, though), but they seem to be doing “just fine” with a “build your own PaaS” approach. As one enterprise architect put it:

[My] ideal is we leverage Chef/Puppet and stick to IaaS systems whether our own internal VMWare cloud, a public AWS or OpenStack or Rackspace or whatever tomorrow brings. Scripting the build out of what we need. I think that is going to be the most portable from what I have seen. But we have to balance that against the time/complexity savings of being able to deploy to a CloudFoundry with “one line.”

I think the overall answer is “we don’t know yet.” We care about lock in. We worry about it. But I’m not sure we care enough to push us one way or the other.

You’ve got it all wrapped up there: flexibility and future-proofing vs. what you already have and productivity. As ever, they tend to be skitish about being restricted on which middleware they want to use. “What if I need to use node.js, or zeromq, or, I don’t know, Java?” they say.

These are all trade-offs, to be sure: to tautological, any technology choice means you’re using that technology and not others. The question for developers is how much flexibility they’ll have to add in what they need.

Offerings like Cloudfoundry seem to be addressing these concerns. The same EA said:

CloudFoundry is very intriguing to [our line of business] specifically from VMWare given our Spring heavy stack already. The idea of utilizing the open source version (or paid supported version) that we pull internal to our own VMWare stack could be very interesting. But again we need some more maturity in our [corporate IT] area [to start thinking along these "cloud" lines]. They are still relatively new (2 years) and are just maturing around how to support these various [programming models].

As another random data point, it’s notable that Accenture has a PaaS services offering now.

PaaS 3.0

Almost nothing works the first time it’s attempted. Just because what you’re doing does not seem to be working, doesn’t mean it won’t work. It just means that it might not work the way you’re doing it. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, and you wouldn’t have an opportunity.
Bob’s Rules

Stephen O’Grady suggests, in email, that there’s three waves of PaaS, each learning from the past and getting better:

  1. Azure, AppEngine, Force.com – each a bit too limited and narrow. Too much lock-in
  2. Heroku – Stephen describes PaaS in this phase as “built from off the shelf parts and practices, these were the “same idea, but with an important differentiation with respect to interoperability and standards.” Slightly more open, if standard.
  3. Cloundfoundry (which I praised), OpenShift – these are, as Stephen says, “composed of not only standardized components, but each of which supports multiple runtimes.” I tend to see these more as “bring your own PaaSes”

Stephen closed out our email discussion with this:

In essence, then, I think there’s very solid upside in PaaS plays, assuming they’re copying Heroku’s formula rather than, say, Force.com’s. Because really, what most of them become is hardware backed language framework targets – think djangy, Heroku or nodejitsu. And we know from experience that frameworks are leading language adoption. While the timeframe of their traction remains unclear, I am bullish on PaaS for all of the above.

Check out more of his PaaS thinking in his 2011 predictions note.

Indeed, while PaaS adoption hasn’t been going gang-busters of late, it’s not really possible to write-off the idea yet. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to assume there’ll be more of it, even if we don’t exactly know what form it will take.

Disclosure: VMware, Microsoft, RedHat, Salesforce, and others are clients.

Categories: Cloud, Programming, The New Thing.

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Zenoss Service Dynamics – Press Pass

Zenoss continued it’s climb up the IT Management stack today with the announcement of Zenoss Service Dynamics with Impact Management for Hybrid Cloud Operations, a mouthful indeed. I emailed with Steve Wexler on the release, here’s his story. Here’s the Press Pass:

Overall

Zenoss has grown the breadth of its product an incredible amount in the last few years. They started out as just a basic monitoring platform, monitoring all the typical things in that category. As virtualization and cloud have invaded the data center, they’ve quickly tracked support for those new technologies. They have succeeded in providing a “one console to rule them all” approach, avoiding the usual well polished duct-tape integration approach that comes from building a management suite inorganically. What you’re seeing in their Impact offering is a continuation of that breadth, climbing up the management stack of managing the overall domain of IT rather than just “monitoring.” There are a lot of people hacking away at the hybrid cloud management problem, and Zenoss’ attempt it looking good.

What are the biggest trends driving this market segment?

At the moment, this is a problem many people are working on. The whole idea of “private cloud” promoted by most vendors is predicated on the ability to manage a “hybrid cloud” environment: that is, manage traditional on-premise IT, private cloud, and the public cloud. “Hybrid cloud” technically means something slightly different (just like “private cloud” should mean more than “highly virtualization on-premise,” but usually means just that), but it’s fast coming to mean “everything,” which is fair for most established companies: it’s rare to just have a cloud-way of running IT under your roof as more than likely you have years of pre-cloud IT that needs to be kept up and running. Most of the approaches people have taken have been more piece-mail: either really good cloud management without an eye-towards on-premise (ignoring “private cloud”) IT, or slapping on some public cloud module to an existing on-premise system.

They’ve got a video up going over the announcement as well:

Disclosure: Zenoss is a client.

Categories: Cloud, Press Pass, Systems Management.

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More Agile in SmartBear's ALMComplete

The recent version of SmartBear‘s ALMComplete contains a host of new, Agile-oriented features. In these two videos, SmartBear’s Steve Miller tells us about and then demos these features. First, we get an overview of the features, how they came about, and how teams are using them. Then, Steve gives us a demo of the new features in action, drilling down into how they’re actually used.

Overview

Demo

Disclosure: SmartBear sponsored this video.

Categories: Agile, Programming, RedMonkTV.