Emerging Cloud Standards—Will the Real Standard Please Stand Up?


Based on the number of cloud computing standards organizations working on the problem, clearly interest is running at an all-time high. Here's a list of some of the bodies actively working on creating cloud standards.

Starting in February 2012, international standards bodies have been meeting regularly to coordinate development efforts of much needed cloud interoperability standards. As reported in Information Management, the effort is being coordinated by the Open Data Center Alliance. The organizations joining in the effort include some of the most prestigious standards bodies in the industry: Distributed Management Task Force, Storage Networking Industry Association, and ETSI. This is most welcome news to consumers of cloud computing services, who have long struggled with vendor lock-in and difficult or impossible migrations between cloud platforms.
Just based on the number of cloud computing standards organizations working on the problem, clearly interest is running at an all-time high. Below is a list of just some of the bodies actively working on creating cloud standards.

  • Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) – Probably the most active organization in developing cloud standards. The DMTF is backed by a laundry list of big name vendors. The group wins the gold star for ratifying the first, and so far only, cloud-oriented standard. The Open Virtualization Format (OVF), approved in September 2010 after three years of work, makes migration between some platforms easier, but it does not provide all the tools needed for full transparent cloud interoperability.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – This US government agency is responsible for fostering American innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. It published one of the first cloud reference architectures back in November 2010, followed by a draft cloud roadmap in Nov 2011. While the NIST standard has a decidedly operational bias, it is a step in the right direction.
  • Open Cloud Consortium (OCC) – Cisco and Yahoo are major contributors to this Chicago-based group that is managing a shared research cloud primarily used for testing advanced cloud network architectures. It has several working groups focused on developing cloud data, networking and disaster recovery standards, benchmarks, and reference implementations.
  • Open Grid Forum (OGF) – This international group has carved out a niche in the applied distributed (grid) computing and distributed software components of the cloud universe. It has launched the Open Cloud Computing Interface Working Group to deliver an open API to support interoperability across cloud software infrastructures. Members include: Fujitsu, CA, NetApp, Grid Consortium Japan, Grid Forum Korea, and many other international organizations.
  • Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) - Backed by EMC, IBM, and other heavyweights in the storage industry, this group has long played a significant role in developing data storage standards, including the widely adopted Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) initiative. Its Cloud Storage Initiative (CSI) is creating meta tagging standards to enable better use of cloud storage.
  • Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) – The CSA has been publishing guidelines for secure cloud computing. While these are not officially standards, they are much needed for the wider adoption of cloud computing in the enterprise.

In conclusion, the good news is that the cloud industry is finally reaching consensus that the time to build cloud interoperability standards is long overdue. The bad news is that the technical and market issues are complex, so that it could take years before all concerns are addressed properly.

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