One of the most exciting things I’m looking forward to in the Citrix booth (#1219) at VMworld this week in San Francisco is the demonstration of OpenStack integrated cloud management and orchestration on XenServer, using XenCenter as the console.

OpenStack is open source cloud computing management and orchestration software. It enables cloud providers and enterprises to build highly scalable, easily deployable cloud infrastructures. It includes both compute and object storage subsystems. Citrix is proud to join Dell, Rackspace, NASA, and dozens of other companies in contributing and fostering this open solution. Unlike purely proprietary approaches, OpenStack will accelerate community-driven standards, eliminate lock-in for enterprises, and create an open solution ecosystem that spans cloud providers.

Specifically, if you come by the booth, you’ll be able to see what you’d expect to see in a XenServer demo — a XenCenter desktop managing virtual machines. But this XenCenter will be different from the one running on your own desktop: it includes a plug-in that shows the servers, virtual machines, and storage being orchestrated by OpenStack in our demo datacenter. And it uses OpenStack methods — API calls — to drive the creation of virtual machines, and to power them on and off. (This is an early proof-of-concept — OpenStack, and the interface, will do lots more in the future.)

In setting up our demo environment, we’ve taken ease of adoption very seriously, which is something you might expect from the “ten minutes to Xen” team. The OpenStack node controller software is packaged as a virtual appliance — so all we need to do (and all you’ll need to do once it is widely available) is download the virtual appliance, import it on the managed nodes, and — voila! An OpenStack-orchestrated cloud!

The source of the two initial primary contributions to OpenStack is significant in illustrating this commitment to openness. The object storage subsystem – codenamed “swift” – is being advanced from a baseline contributed by Rackspace, one of the leading providers of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Rackspace wisely understands that the value of increasing the development community for the software as well as enabling enterprises to use it in-house and enhance it greatly outweighs any risk to their business posed by allowing their competitors to use it — that, in fact, wider availability makes their service and expertise more attractive to customers. And as for the compute subsystem — codenamed “nova” – its heritage is the Nebula cloud deployed by NASA. Nebula is leading the way for cloud computing efforts in the federal government, which has a mandate to adopt cloud computing for economics and adaptability. Nebula was selected as the baseline for OpenStack “nova” because it offers scalability unmatched by other options, proprietary or open-source.

One of OpenStack’s great strengths is its hypervisor-independence. Even before its initial release, it supports orchestration of Citrix XenServer as well as KVM and Oracle VM VirtualBox; it’s not unlikely that cloud providers, government agencies or enterprises with investments in ESX or Hyper-V will develop and contribute OpenStack support for those platforms as well. This multi-hypervisor support is a characteristic of true openness that OpenStack shares with the Citrix OpenCloud™ platform — and that makes it a great complementary component.

Another openness characteristic that OpenStack and the OpenCloud platform share is openness to innovation — that is, extensibility. Organizations are developing capabilities that extend OpenStack and contributing them back to the community — just as cloud providers can integrate their own expertise and intellectual property into Citrix OpenCloud solutions, differentiating their services while providing an open, compatible platform. And these solutions — leveraging Citrix and partner technology plus provider expertise — in the areas of on-boarding, compliance, disaster recovery, dev/test, and on-demand services (including apps, desktops, and demos) – enable providers to offer enterprises turnkey approaches that can accelerate and smooth their adoption of the cloud.

The open source community-driven development process is one factor that contributes to the attainment of “cloud economics” – both reduced cost and pay-as-you-go charging. With Citrix OpenCloud, there are many other factors, from the buy-what-you-need aspect of the platform virtualization element (whether free XenServer or the simple per-server cost model of the premium editions) to the Pay-As-You-Grow pricing model of NetScaler MPX boxes or NetScaler VPX virtual appliances in the edge networking component. And when these savings can be accrued by the cloud provider, they can bring lower costs to the customer, without forcing cloud providers into the unsustainable “race to the bottom” that is the result of undifferentiated commoditization.

Our demonstration of OpenStack is just one part of the advancing of the Citrix OpenCloud strategy. OpenCloud delivers a powerful platform including virtualization and edge networking choice, support for desktops and applications, and new technologies that will help enterprises extend their datacenters into the cloud securely and efficiently. It then uses flexible orchestration interfaces, including OpenStack, to make the infrastructure service the dynamic needs of users. And it provides workload-aligned solutions that help businesses choose the work most suited to the cloud and deploy it there.

The keyword is “open” – offering cloud providers and enterprises a rich set of choices at every tier of the cloud platform, not just the ability to pick identical product offerings from a legion of “vClones.”