An Open-Source Food Fight in the Cloud

6 April 2012 –  To date, the four horsemen of the cloud appear to be Amazon.com, Microsoft, Google and VMware.  The first three companies have built their own cloud computing services that consumers and businesses can tap into. Instead of doing its own service, VMware, the maker of virtualization software, is selling a new suite of cloud software so that service providers and businesses can build their own new-age, cloud computing systems.

The collective muscle and proprietary leanings of those four companies has triggered something of a cloud panic. At its core, cloud computing promises lower costs and greater flexibility than traditional data centers. It’s a way to avoid lock-in, that mainframe-era problem where a company buys its own big, expensive systems—and is stuck with them. But those advantages could be undermined if, say, Amazon decides to play the heavy and makes it difficult for companies to move their software and data onto a competing cloud service. That would be lock-in, cloud edition.

To counter the big cloud players, the software maker Citrix has decided to open-source its CloudStack software. Citrix acquired CloudStack when it bought the startup Cloud.com last year. On Tuesday, Citrix vowed to turn CloudStack over to the Apache Software Foundation, a nonprofit that oversees a number of the most popular open-source projects and is viewed as a neutral player in the software world. It’s all extremely geeky—and extremely important to the future of enterprise tech customers.

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