Standardizing the Cloud

April 18, 2011
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On Monday, April 4, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a major standards organization, announced two working groups to develop standards for cloud computing. The first, the P2031 Work Group, focuses on “application interfaces, portability interfaces, management interfaces, interoperability interfaces, file formats, and operation conventions” while the second, P2302, works on “topology, functions, and governance for cloud-to-cloud interoperability and federation.” The latter refers to mediating governance and exchange between clouds, name spaces, units of measurement, and registration, among other things, but does not touch operation within a cloud or proprietary hybrid clouds. In other words, P2031 deals with cloud portability and management while p2302 works on interoperability between clouds.

The EU’s European Commission has also been tackling the problem of cloud computing standards since March 23 with a focus on interoperability. The goal is for switching cloud providers to be as easy as switching internet providers by creating open specifications. They began in March with a series of consultations on the subject both in person in Brussels and online that will be the basis of the Commission’s strategy.

Standards would ensure that cloud computing is open and competitive by preventing technology lock-in. Data migration is already a major problem in cloud computing and, with Microsoft joining Amazon,  Google, and a host of others providers, only looks likely to get worse. Standards would also make is easier and more efficient for clouds to interact and work together. There is some concern, however, that as the technology is fairly new and still evolving, the wrong standards may be chosen or innovation stiffed. Also, with two major standardizing bodies working on the problem along with various cloud certification programs and benchmarks currently in place, limited and competing standards will be an obstacle unless groups consult and work together.