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Citrix looks to build bridges in the cloud

Networking tech aims to address difficulty of moving data between different hosted services
Written by Tim Ferguson, Contributor

Networking tech aims to address difficulty of moving data between different hosted services

One of the issues currently holding back the adoption of cloud computing is the difficulty of moving data between different services.

The problem stems from the fact that cloud providers and virtualisation companies work with their own competing proprietary technology stacks, meaning tasks such as moving data held by a cloud computing vendor to an internal private cloud can be a tricky affair.

Virtualisation company Citrix is attempting to tackle this problem with its OpenCloud technology, unveiled at its Synergy user and partner conference in Berlin recently.

Citrix CEO Mark Templeton speaking at the company's Synergy event in Berlin

Citrix president and CEO Mark Templeton at the company's Synergy event in Berlin
(Photo credit: Citrix)

One element of the technology, OpenCloud Bridge, is a secure tunnelling technology which allows data and workloads to be transferred between internal corporate networks and external third-party cloud platforms. Through OpenCloud Bridge, external cloud environments – such as Amazon's EC2 or Rackspace's Cloud Server - appear to be an extension of an organisation's internal network.

The technology will work on any virtual hypervisor but requires both sides of the data transfer to be using Citrix's NetScaler server technology, meaning that currently not all cloud services are currently able to use OpenCloud Bridge.

There are plans for OpenCloud Bridge to work with Windows Azure in the future but the additional software layer on Microsoft's cloud platform means extra tweaks are required to make it compatible with the Citrix technology.

Users of OpenCloud Bridge will also be able to move virtual machines and workloads between VMWare and Citrix virtual machines using the OpenCloud Bridge technology.

However, moving data between software-as-a-service applications – from Microsoft Dynamics CRM to Salesforce.com, for example - isn't currently on Citrix's agenda, as application-to-application data transfer requires significant changes to the way the data is packaged and structured, something that will need cross-vendor support before it can be implemented.

In theory, the OpenCloud Bridge technology should mean IT organisations can integrate external cloud computing technology without having to carry out complicated network integration work or rewrite applications.

Citrix approach varies from that of...

...VMWare, which allows movement of applications on virtual machines between off-premise and on-premise environments through its vFabric technology but only if they remain within the VMWare stack.

"My view is Citrix have hung their hat on the open source banner, an open stack [which] they're hoping the service providers take up to enable customers to be able to enter and exit cheaply and quickly whereas VMWare are hoping in their tie-ups with people like Salesforce.com that their platform, based on a proprietary vCloud API, will be adopted by people so they can link service providers into their stack," Ovum senior analyst Roy Illsley told silicon.com.

According to Illsley, Citrix's approach of basing the OpenCloud technology on its NetScaler technology is a canny move as VMWare lacks such technology, preferring to base its technology on the hypervisor, through which virtualised applications are then accessed.

Along with OpenCloud Bridge, Citrix also announced OpenCloud Access at its Synergy event. The technology enables users to access applications hosted in their datacentre, as well as the public cloud applications, using a single sign-on - allowing the applications to appear to function on the same network.

OpenCloud Access works in conjunction with the Citrix Receiver technology, a client-based system to allow users to access internal and external cloud applications in an application store-style interface.

Ovum's Illsley said that the announcement of OpenCloud Access and Bridge is significant as it's the first time that the lack of overarching cloud computing standards in cloud computing has been addressed.

He predicted that Citrix will initially work with IT vendors with which it has existing partnerships to make their technology compatible with OpenCloud Access and Bridge, before widening it out to other cloud companies.

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