Citrix updates self-service cloud portal to pave the way for XaaS

Citrix's new self-service cloud portal software serves as an easy-to-use cloud orchestration tool for providers to deliver Anything as a Service.

Cloud service providers that rely on CloudStack to deliver cloud services can expect a smoother path to offering Anything as a Service, thanks to several new features being pushed out in the latest CloudPortal Business Manager release.

Citrix Systems Inc.'s CloudPortal Business Manager version 2.0, whose availability was announced this week, serves as a cloud orchestration layer for services built on CloudStack -- an open source cloud platform that sprung from Citrix's acquisition of in 2011. The customizable self-service cloud portal software can be used to present cloud services to customers and offer management capabilities.

New features in the recent update include performance monitoring, account status, usage and billing. The software also now supports onboarding, metering and monitoring, while allowing providers to define workflow rules and create a custom services catalog for self-service provisioning of cloud and managed services. Cloud providers can also use the platform to manage their own back-end infrastructure.

The price tag for all of these functions ranges from $35,000 for a standard, annual license, to $275,000 for an advanced, perpetual license. Some analysts say the pricing is in line with other proprietary orchestration tools on the market.

One cloud provider that uses CloudPortal Business manager for its Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) orchestration said it is worth the cost.

"OpenStack is out there and you can create a business layer with that, but how long does it take to set up? You need a development team," said Anthony Lobretto, vice president of engineering and technology solutions at DBR360, a managed service provider based in Fairfax, Va. "The price [of CloudPortal Business Manager] is steep, but it lets you get up and running quickly. Citrix made it so that anyone can use it."

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The software's self-service cloud catalog features enable service providers to shield users from the underlying complexity of self-service provisioning, making the concept of Anything as a Service (XaaS) far more seamless to customers. DBR360 uses the portal to build pre-set cloud infrastructure offerings and present them to clients.

All in all, CloudPortal makes an IaaS cloud more user-friendly with self-service and catalog management -- even for non-techie customers -- said Dave Bartoletti, a senior analyst with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

"With this product, both service providers and even enterprises building a set of cloud services can get up and running faster with a platform to onboard users and apps, delegate responsibility and offer a range of cloud services -- from IaaS to virtual desktops to apps," he said. 

Citrix's Business Manager was a logical choice for DBR360 because its own infrastructure is based on CloudStack and Xen, Lobretto said.

Although the CloudPortal isn't compatible with other IaaS platforms, such as OpenStack or VMware's vCloud Director, newly available software developer's kits and application programming interfaces in CloudPortal Business Manager allow customers to customize it for other platforms and services, according to Tom McCafferty, Cloud Platform's product director.

Other cloud orchestration platform providers include Cisco Systems, Eucalyptus, Flexiant, IBM, Microsoft, VMware and V3 Systems.

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