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Summary:

The proliferation of standards bodies and other groups focusing on cloud computing makes it difficult to believe any one organization can deliver truly valuable, business-level information. In many cases, their scopes are too specialized. The work might be great, but it needs to make its way […]

the-open-groupThe proliferation of standards bodies and other groups focusing on cloud computing makes it difficult to believe any one organization can deliver truly valuable, business-level information. In many cases, their scopes are too specialized. The work might be great, but it needs to make its way to users in a useful manner. The Open Group, with its new enterprise-focused Cloud Work Group, is working to make this happen.

The Cloud Work Group’s mission is not to develop any standards of its own, but to produce advisory reports by taking into account numerous sources. In fact, says Open Group Vice President of Collaboration Services Dave Lounsbury, the Open Group is predisposed to incorporate rather than recreate, because reinventing the wheel wastes the time and money of all involved. While the Cloud Work Group is new, the Open Group has been working on cloud computing for about a year and already has liaised with the Open Cloud Manifesto group, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), and the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum, among others.

I think of the Open Group’s Cloud Work Group as the RightScale of the standards community. It will take the work of other groups, add in its own expertise, and put it all together in the most useful package possible. The big difference is that while RightScale has built a multi-provider management interface, it cannot offer seamless interaction among platforms until providers make it possible; the Cloud Work Group can integrate everything within its scope now and deliver real-world guidance.

The Cloud Work Group’s interactions with other consortia will involve more than just talking. Lounsbury says the Cloud Work Group already has had cross-briefings with the CSA, and he expects co-authored work products are inevitable. The Open Group has been party to jointly produced documents in the past and, says Lounsbury, “Given the multi-headed nature of the cloud beast, I expect we’ll take advantage of that again.” The Cloud Work Group’s collaborative nature also could make it an intermediary between different consortia and help keep them moving in the same direction, thus avoiding inter-organizational conflicts that leave users wondering which standards to adopt.

This approach is noteworthy because, like the cloud-computing landscape with platforms, the cloud standards arena is littered with many distinct organizations. Apart from the aforementioned groups, other major initiatives include the Open Grid Forum’s Open Cloud Computing Interface Working Group and the Distributed Management Task Force’s Open Cloud Standards Incubator, and smaller groups are always forming. It would be nearly impossible for a company to monitor all the work being done by these organizations, analyze it, and apply it to its cloud strategy. However, because the Cloud Work Group consists of members spanning the vendor and user communities, it can keep track of this work and bring relevant standards and best practices from across the board to bear on specific business scenarios, or possibly on a cloud-computing architectural taxonomy.

  1. The Open Groups approach of “embrace and extend” rather than “command and control” is noteworthy. However, “cloud standards” will be only be adopted by the major providers when the opportunity cost of not having standards is greater than the value of competitive differentiation for each cloud vendor.

    In other words, it isn’t in Amazon’s interests right now – or perhaps ever – to put capital towards R&D and deployment of a standard that will further commoditize their offering. They see themselves as a leader with an API and infrastructure model that is copied as a de facto standard – see Eucalyptus.

    “Cloud standards” as a concept is also a bit of a red herring when you think about the true standards that viable clouds are based on:

    * TCP/IP protocol
    * HTTP and HTTPS protocols
    * a wide range of RFC’s
    * Open, documented APIs based on RESTful or SOAPy interfaces

    I like the idea of the Cloud Work Group because it can be as much about “best practices” as it is about “standards.” It is a useful to think about best practices this way, instead of propping up the straw man that the “cloud isn’t enterprise ready because there aren’t standards.” There are a bunch of reasons why particular clouds aren’t ready for particular enterprise use cases, the least of which are lack of standards. What we need are third-parties willing to investigate, analyze, and publish best practices that define what a viable “Web 2.0 Hosting Cloud” or a “Enterprise Batch Processing” cloud should look like.

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    1. Exactly. At this point, it’s about figuring out what standards and best practices exist, and figuring out how, or if, they apply to any given situation. I think standards will start to emerge around security and fundamental issues long before we see any real progress on a standard API.

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  2. So long as these initiatives are about “collaboration” rather than “coordination” or “control” they add value with little risk. As soon as people start talking about “approving” standards and so on it’s time to run for the hills – we’ve already learnt our lessons here.

    That said, cloud computing presents an opportunity for us to push for a new level of openness in cloud standards – one being embraced by the likes of Rackspace and Sun (who are releasing their APIs under creative commons licenses) but not necessarily by the more traditional standards movements. As the secretary of the Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) working group I still have no access (let alone input) to intiaitives that are being done “behind closed doors”. The result, of course, is standards for interdependent technologies that are themselves incompatible, or at least have unnecessary impedance mismatches.

    I’ve been [kind of] on holidays this month but I’ll be back on the job shortly so there should be some movement at the station in the coming weeks…

    Sam

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  3. [...] that multi-platform cloud services you need a neutral monitoring service such as Cloudkick, I think it is way too pre-mature to think in terms of people buying servers from multiple [...]

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  4. [...] into a mix that already includes the Cloud Security Alliance, CloudAudit, DMTF, NIST, the TM Forum, The Open Group and plenty of others could further complicate things. With so many standards, reference [...]

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