Is It Time for Cloud Computing Standards?

By Rick Blaisdell

In a previous article, “Top 5 Cloud Computing Trends,” I argued that cloud computing standards are necessary, since cloud computing is at a relatively early stage of development and its evolution is moving at a high rate of speed. There are many organizations currently developing standards, and that presents a significant risk is fragmentation or diffusion. And, instead of strengthening cloud computing, that may just serve to make everybody more wary.

A high level of trust is needed before any business will move into the cloud. And this level of trust is based on knowing exactly what the business will get, how it will get it, and when. A trusted set of standards that every provider can adhere to would help with this problem and make companies more likely to move to the cloud.

As things stand, we are not lacking standards. The problem is that we have too many, and too few people really understand what they are. All the same, there have been a few worthy efforts:

    • The Green Grid is a non-profit, open-industry consortium of end-users, policy-makers, technology providers, facility architects, and utility companies collaborating to improve the resource efficiency of data centers and business computing ecosystems. Its aim is to create standards for a more efficient use of resources.
    • Cloud Security Alliance is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to promote the use of best practices for providing security assurance within cloud computing, and to provide education on the uses of cloud computing to help secure all other forms of computing.
    • Distributed Management Task Force is an industry group whose mission is to enable more effective management of millions of IT systems worldwide. It works by bringing the IT industry together to collaborate on the development, validation and promotion of systems management standards. The group has created a Cloud Management Working Group to develop a set of standards to improve cloud management interoperability between service providers and their consumers and developers.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology is a non-regulatory federal agency whose mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. NIST has started a program to develop a set of cloud computing standards, with the first results being already published: Check it out here.

There are quite a few organizations working on standards — these are only some of them; the entire list is much longer. But with all these competing systems working to create new “standards,” there’s a risk of creating more confusion instead of making for a stronger industry.

The best way forward would be to start a discussion and get everybody to agree, starting with the most urgent issues. And I believe the most urgent would be to agree on standardization at platform level, which would allow for greater flexibility if a company wants to move from one cloud provider to the other.

However, a balance needs to be achieved, since over-standardization could be as dangerous to the industry as no standards at all. Since cloud computing is still in its infancy, defining how things should work in too much detail could result in rigidity, leaving too little room for future innovation. If that happens, cloud computing’s evolution would be endangered.

Rick Blaisdell is an accomplished technical and business leader and a pioneer in the cloud computing field and in delivering the next generation of business technology. Focused on results, he has implemented revolutionary solutions to cut costs and improve efficiency. He is a creative thinker and visionary in the area of cloud computing. You can read more about him on his personal website, www.rickscloud.com, or e-mail him directly at contact@rickscloud.com.
Originally published: Sep 30, 2011

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