Cloud computing standards initiative

A group aiming to establish standards to enable better interoperability for cloud computing has been launched by industry body Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF).

Named the Open Cloud Standard Incubator, the group was formed as part of the DMTF Standards Incubation process, which enables its members to produce informational specifications that can then be fast-tracked through the standards development process. Industry players involved include AMD, Cisco, Citrix, EMC, Intel, Redhat, Savvis, Sun, and VMware.

“Cloud computing will have a major impact on IT management,” says DMTF president Winston Bumpus. “No specific standards exist for enabling interoperability between private clouds within enterprises and hosted or public cloud providers. The Open Cloud Standards Incubator will focus on addressing these issues by developing cloud resource management protocols, packaging formats, and security mechanisms to facilitate interoperability”.

IT industry analysts, however, have viewed the initiative with mixed feelings. “Clouds cannot work unless standards are consistent and at a solid level,” says Clive Longbottom, service director - business process analysis at Quocirca. “Cloud has to be amorphous - and has to have some over-riding means of exchanging both function and data.” Longbottom believes that the DTMF will “have to work faster than it normally does, though - bringing out standards in 2020 for what's happening now will be pretty useless.”

Ovum senior analyst Tim Stammers believes that although cloud computing seems to be faring fine without standards, they will help reduce supplier lock-in. “One of the obvious issues for standards here is about the format for application data when a business switches providers - will it get its application data back in a format that another provider can work with?” The DMTF is well-placed to foster the initiative, Stammers adds: “It’s a major systems management body, and this is a systems management problem. The first word in its title is ‘Distributed’, and the promise of cloud portability and federation (bursting) of virtual machines is distributed computing”.

However, he also notes industry heavyweights conspicuous by their absence the incubator leadership board, such as Amazon and Google. “Amazon’s public position is that it is skeptical about the IT industry’s ability to forge useful standards; so although it expects that cloud standards will develop, and promises that it will adopt them wherever they will help customers, it will stand back from the DMTF - for now at least.”
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