Xen Founders Leave Citrix to Tackle Cloud Security Woes

At Citrix Synergy 2011 in San Francisco, last month, Simon Crosby made the case that the biggest barrier to the adoption of service-provider offered cloud services is the understandable lack of trust on the part of enterprise customers. Well it looks as if he and fellow Xen luminary Ian Pratt have decided to do something about that lack of trust and are moving on from Citrix to address the problem at its source. Ian and Simon announced today that they are both leaving Citrix and taking key roles along with with Gaurav Banga (the creator of Phoenix Hyperspace) as co-founders of cloud security start-up Bromium.

Details about Bromium are thin on the ground and likely to remain so for some time to come.  Bromium is still in stealth mode and the limited amount of information that is available at present suggests that this status is unlikely to change in the near future. So far the only indications as to Bromium’s mission lie in Simon’s address on day two of the Synergy conference where he challenged the perception that enterprises are more vulnerable to infrastructure failure when using cloud based services than if they build their own private clouds, and suggested that any credible cloud provider will do a better job of running their infrastructure via automation, than current manual processes, as well as calling into question the current weaknesses in enterprise clients and highlighting the relative ease by which they are compromised.

Bromium is being backed by  investors Andreessen Horowitz, Ignition Partners, and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

In addition to their work at Bromium, Simon and Ian will remain very active in many of the key industry initiatives they’ve been so instrumental in creating and shaping. Ian will continue serving as chair of Xen.org, and both will be active in key strategic initiatives like the OpenStack cloud project and the Open vSwitch project for virtual networking.

With Crosby and Pratt heading out the door so soon after desktop CTO Harry Labana left to join AppSense, this makes three members of the Citrix CTO Office gone inside of a month. Does this mean that Citrix is in trouble?

Probably not. While three high profile departures will be hard to fill overnight, The Citrix CTO’s office has sufficient depth to paper over any cracks (even if finding someone with the same willingness to goad VMware might be a little harder).   Although all three are no longer Citrix employees, they are hardly competitors either. AppSense remains a strong Citrix partner and it was clear from Labana’s extensive participation in Citrix Synergy after his departure was announced that he and Citrix were departing on good terms. As for Crosby and Pratt, in a farewell note on the Citrix blog Crosby wrote that he and Pratt “will remain active in our stewardship, contribution to, and promotion of the key building blocks of open infrastructure: xen.org, OpenStack.org, OpenVSwitch.org, the Open Networking Foundation and other projects”. Given the depth of Citrix’s involvement in Xen and OpenStack, continued close partnership is almost inevitable.

As for Xen, well given that Xen is being folded back into the Linux mainline kernel with the next release of Linux, its importance has never been greater. So despite some speculation to the contrary,  Citrix’s commitment to Xen and XenServer is unlikely to change. Citrix has much invested in Xen, and its increasing popularity as a cloud infrastructure platform will see it grow in importance rather than diminish.

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