As the sun set on the “big day” announcement of our acquisition of cloud.com, I spent a little time eagerly reading and digesting the plethora of articles and blog posts that had been written to cover the breaking news.

As I expected, much of the reaction from analysts and bloggers alike was extremely positive. There were tons of articles like this one from ZDnet that showed most folks really understood the positive impact this acquisition could have on the industry… and really get the fact that we’re taking a fundamentally different approach to cloud computing. When you step back and take an honest look at what Citrix is trying to do here, it’s hard to be negative about a proven, hypervisor-agnostic, cloud infrastructure platform that makes it easier for customers to realize the promise of cloud computing in a truly open way.

I was a bit surprised, however, to see a couple of Tweets and articles that, as we would say in England, “have completely gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick”… asserting that we are somehow trying to compete against the big established cloud services like Amazon AWS, Rackspace Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

Seriously? Why in the world? I honestly can’t imagine how that message could have been deduced from our official announcement. I understand that this space is moving fast, but anyone making that assertion simply doesn’t understand what Citrix is all about. Our entire strategy as a company is based on openness, freedom and choice.

Why in the world would we want to set up our own infrastructure cloud to compete head-to-head with ANY of these pioneers when we have, quite simply, the hottest end-to-end infrastructure platform on the planet for public clouds? Xen powers most of the public cloud today. An estimated 75 percent of all internet users every day rely on NetScaler to make the internet more reliable, fast and secure. And our new CloudStack from Cloud.com is on the same trajectory, powering more than 60 of the most innovative clouds in the world…names like Zynga, GoDaddy, Korea Telecom, Greenqloud, Tata…and a bunch of other known Cloud brands we can’t disclose publicly. Our goal is to help ALL of these providers be successful, not to compete with them. We want to offer platforms that enable business, move markets and provide seamless connectivity across ANY and ALL clouds – irrespective of whether they are delivering infrastructure, social, entertainment, gaming, business or consumer-style services.

Why in the world would we want to compete with Amazon Web Services? It’s no secret that they are the biggest Xen user on the planet and a massive Citrix customer. We love Amazon. Who doesn’t? They have been a cornerstone of cloud innovation for years. We also, of course, want to help the smaller and emerging cloud providers quickly stand up Amazon-like infrastructures so they can focus on the unique value-added cloud services they want to deliver for their business model…not to compete with Amazon, but to make sure they can focus on their unique value add without reinventing the wheel.

These new cloud guys need a trusted partner. They need speed, flexibility and choice. In a tough business when time to market is critical, they look to us to help them be successful, rather than trying to home grow or replicate all the underlying Amazon-style infrastructure (or worse still, trying to do it on top of some horribly expensive enterprise-oriented virtualization stack like VMware with their disjointed and complicated orchestration and automation layers bolted on top).

Why in the world would we want to compete with Rackspace Cloud? They are another great example of a successful Citrix customer and a valued partner in the OpenStack community – in which we both continue to be very active and have some of our best talent and smartest brains working on.

Why in the world would we want to compete with Microsoft Azure? Not only is Microsoft a great friend and long-time ally, but the Azure platform is an example of a true PaaS play, clearly focused on giving developers an easier way to architect, deploy and manage the next generation of apps that are designed to run in the cloud. We’re definitely not a PaaS vendor, nor frankly, do we want to be.

The bottom line is that we believe in the value of choice – whether that is hardware, hypervisor or cloud. Take Citrix Receiver, for example. Our universal software client works on more than 1 billion different devices (PC, Mac, tablets, smartphones, thin clients, etc.) and lets users pick up ANY device and with an internet connection, you can run all your business apps and desktops…in a world of many devices, we let you use any device. It’s your choice.

Our goal is to bring this same belief system to the cloud. We believe there will be a need to support MANY development languages (including Java, PHP, .NET, Ruby, Python & Perl to name a few)… to support MANY databases (SQL, Oracle, MySQL, MongoDB, Cassandra, etc.)… and to realize that these services will be delivered on top of MANY successful next-generation PaaS platforms from a variety of great vendors. We want to make it easy for developers and providers to work with any of them. It’s that simple.

Let’s be honest. CloudStack is a key enabler for all the cloud providers who want to BUILD clouds. They will build them with our expertise, our partnership and our commitment to making them successful. We will provide that same assistance to enterprise customers who want to CONNECT to the myriad of external cloud services using the networking and user-centric functionality built into the Citrix NetScaler CloudBridge and CloudGateway products. In a world of many clouds, we make it simple for customers to connect to any cloud with great security…and a great user experience.

Let’s be realistic. It would not make any sense for us to compete directly with any of the guys I’ve mentioned above. Ok…in fairness, there is one vendor we’re not so sure we want to dominate the cloud space. If you share our belief that the cloud is all about choice, wouldn’t you be just the tiniest bit alarmed by the this week’s statement from our friend Paul Maritz, when he claimed VMware  owns 50 percent of the world’s VMs and is on a mission to snap up the remaining 50 percent? Really, Paul? We applaud your success in building great server virtualization company, but isn’t the promise of choice, portability and flexibility a big part of the attraction to cloud? Does anyone outside of Palo Alto really believe having a single company…one that locks everyone into only their platform…is a good thing for the cloud? Isn’t that style of thinking the very kind we’re trying to get away from with this whole cloud thing? That’s an ambition that should scare anyone who believes in freedom and choice.

As we have stated many times before, we are not trying to build a big proprietary stack that locks customers in and works only with others who made the same choice. It’s not the Citrix way (and truthfully, we don’t think it it’s an acceptable strategy as we move into the Cloud Era…customers are simply not going to stand for that PC Era lock-in thinking like they did in the past…believe me, because I lived that nightmare and sweated a lot of blood in helping change that from the other side of the fence).

So yes, we will unabashedly compete with VMware in this race to enable cloud business. Not only because we think we now have the absolute best solution for the cloud (the real cloud, the proven cloud, not server virtualization ++)… but because we don’t think anyone wins in a world where one vendor tries to lock everyone into a proprietary stack where they own everything from the hypervisor to the management… then charges you on every piece of it…by CPU, by RAM, etc. To us, that’s the antithesis of everything the cloud is supposed to be about.

Let’s be clear. While we will compete with VMware directly in this space, it doesn’t mean we won’t work with their product lines. Far from it. Supporting VMware is a core part of our strategy. Because we believe that in the end, choice and openness are what win, and that vendors who try to lock folks in are on the wrong side of history. Our new Citrix CloudStack product line works out of the box with all major hypervisors…including ESX. Just like XenDesktop and NetScaler VPX do. We’ll make it easy for public clouds to connect to VMware based private clouds…and for VMware based private clouds to connect to any public clouds, regardless of platform. Heck, we’ll even support apps built on VMware Cloud Foundry.

Which reminds me… I need to finish this blog now so I can go set up my own Cloud Foundry instance using Rightscale’s existing integration with Citrix CloudStack.

Gotta love choice !

Christian Reilly
Chief Cloud Architect
Cloud Platforms Group