Saturday, September 5, 2009

One Cloud Standard to Rule them All

Lots of discussion recently on the the topic of Cloud standards and a potential Cloud standards war emerging. Thought I'd give you a quick run down.

In an article written by Tom Nolle for Internet Evolution he asks if Multiple Standards Could Spoil Cloud Computing. In the post he says " too many standards are worse than no standards at all, because these efforts can stifle innovation and even implementation. In the case of cloud computing, there’s also the big question of whether standards being pushed for private clouds will end up contaminating the successful Internet model of cloud computing."

Tom also gives some love to my Unified Cloud Interface concept saying "
The best hope for a unification is the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum. Its Unified Cloud Architecture tackles standards by making public cloud computing interoperable. Their map of cloud computing shows the leading public cloud providers and a proposed Unified Cloud Interface that the body defines, with a joking reference to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, as “One API to Rule them All". So then, why not have that “One API” rule private clouds, too? A single top-down vision of cloud computing for public and private clouds has to be a better approach." -- amen brotha.

(As a side note, I'm still committed to the concept of Semantic Cloud Abstraction and the Unified Cloud Interface Project (UCI), but lack the time to do much with it given all my various commitments. So if you're interested in helping do something more around the concept of semantic cloud API's, please feel free to get in touch. Currently I would describe the UCI as a science experiment at best.)

Elsewhere on the standards front, on Friday the OpenNebula project announced that they had made available a prototype implementation of the OCCI draft specification. In case you're not familar with OCCI, it's a simple open APIspecification for remote management of cloud computing infrastructures focused on multicloud interoperability. In the note to the OCCI mailing list they stated that they believe that it is important to have an implementation in order to demo the standard, which they think will provide value by being able to show people how the standard will function in a real world environment. The prototype includes a server implementation, client command for using the service and enabling access to the full functionality of the OCCI interface.

Some other interesting recent cloud standards commentary includes a post by Simon Wardley with an assertion that a standards war is now in full swing. In the post Wardley outlines several considerations for cloud standards including;
  • A specification can be controlled, influenced and directed more easily than an open source project.
  • A specification can easily be exceeded providing mechanisms of lock-in whilst still retaining compliance to a 'standard'.
  • A specification needs to be implemented and depending upon the size and complexity of the 'standard' this can create significant adoption barriers to having multiple implementations.
  • Open source reference models provide a rapid means of implementing a 'standard' and hence encourage adoption.
  • Open source reference models provide a mechanism for testing the compliance of any proprietary re-implementation.
  • Adoption and becoming de facto are key to winning this war.

Christofer Hoff also chimes in saying "A Cloud standards war? War is such an ugly term. It’s just the normal activity associated with disruptive innovation and the markets sorting themselves out. The standards arena is simply where the dirty laundry gets exposed. Get used to it, there’s enough mud/FUD flinging that you can expect several loads"

Personally I would say that at the end of the day, cloud standards seem to have little to do with customer requirements but instead more to do with marketeering and positioning for market dominance. If there truly is a cloud standards war emerging then the way it will be won will be based solely on the standard / platform with the broadest adoption. The technology (API, Platform, etc) with the broadest market penetration will ultimately win -- this is a certainty. Although personally I would prefer to see the "most open" and interoperable approach win, lets be realistic, the winner will most likely be the one with the largest share of cloud computing related revenue.

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