Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cloud Interoperability and The Neutrality Paradox

Recently during some behind the scenes conversations, the question of neutrality within the cloud interoperability movement was raised.

The question of cloud interoperability does open an interesting point when looking at the concepts of neutrality, in particular to those in the position to influence its outcome. At the heart of this debate was my question of whether anyone or anything can be be truly neutral? Or is the very act of neutrality in itself the basis for some other secondary agenda? (Think of Switzerland in the Second World War) For this reason I have come to believe that the very idea of neutrality is in itself a paradox.

Let me begin by stating my obvious biases. I have been working toward the basic tenets of cloud computing for more then 5 years, something I originally referred to as elastic computing. As part of this vision, I saw the opportunity to connect a global network of computing capacity providers using common interfaces as well as (potentially) standardized interchange formats.

As many of you know I am the founder of a Toronto based technology company Enomaly Inc, which focuses on the creation of an "elastic computing" platform. The platform is intended to bridge the need for the better utilization of enterprise compute capacity (private cloud) with opportunities of a limitless, global, on demand ecosystem for cloud computing providers. The idea is to enable a global hybrid data center environment. In a lot of ways, my mission for creating a consensus for the standardized exchange of compute capacity is both driven by a fundamental vision for both my company and the greater cloud community. To say interoperable cloud computing is something I'm passionate about would be putting it mildly. Just ask my friends, family or colleagues and they will tell you I am obsessed.

Recently, I created a CCIF Mission & Goals page, a kind of constitution which outlines some of the groups core mission. As part of that constitution I included a paragraph stating what we're not. In the document I stated the following: "The CCIF will not condone any use of a particular technology for the purposes of market dominance and or advancement of any one particular vendor, industry or agenda. Whenever possible the CCIP will emphasis the use of open, patent free and or vendor neutral technical solutions. " This statement directly addresses some of the concepts of vendor bias, but doesn't state bais within the organizational structure of the group dynamic.

Back to the concept of neutrality as a cloud vendor, as interest in cloud interoperability has begun to gain momentum, it has become clear that these activities have more to do with realpolitik and less to do with idealism. A question was posed - should a vendor (big or small) be in a position to lead the conversation on the topic of cloud interoperability? Or would a more impartial neutrality party be in a better position to drive the agenda forward?

The very fact that question is being raised is indicative of the success of both the greater cloud computing industry as well as our efforts to drive some industry consensus around the topic of interoperability. So regardless of my future involvement, my objectives have been set into motion. Which is a good thing.

My next thought was whether there is really such a thing as a truly neutral entity? To be truly neutral would require a level of apathy that may ultimately result in a failed endeavour. Or to put it another way, to be neutral means being indifferent to the logical outcome. Which also means there is nothing at stake to motivate an individual or group to work towards its stated goals. My more pragmatic self can't also help but feel that even a potentially "more neutral" party could also have some ulterior motives - we all have our agendas. And I'm ok with that.

I'm not ok with those who don't admit to them. The first step in creating a fair and balanced interoperable cloud ecosystem is to in fact state our biases and take steps to offset them by including a broad swath of the greater cloud community, big or small, vendor, analyst or journalist.

So my question is this, how should we handle the concept of neutrality and does it matter?

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