October 17, 2012 – Worldwide implementations of cloud computing standards might not yet be a reality, but industry groups are making progress in areas such as security, interoperability, interfaces and inter-cloud infrastructure, according to an expert panel discussion held Tuesday, entitled “The State of Global Cloud Standards.”

The panel was led by Winston Bumpus, chairman of the board of the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) and director of standards architecture at VMware. Additional panelists included Dr. Jieping Wang of the China Electronics Standardization Institute; Ryuichi Ogawa of Japan’s non-profit cloud standardization group GICTIF; and Monique Morrow of the International Telecommunications Union. The four organizations represented by these panelists have cooperative agreements on computing system standards and each group represents hundreds of vendors and businesses engaged in cloud deployments around the world.

During his portion of the presentation, Bumpus gauged the level of maturity with general adoption of standards for a few aspects of the cloud. The farthest along is security specifications, with fully recognized standards expected by next year. Standards on cloud workloads should reach a reasonable level of conformity into 2013 as well. But industry standards for APIs and overall data are a few clicks behind in the DMTF maturity scale, and standards for SLA management are only beginning to emerge.

DMTF, which last month released the first version of its standards-based cloud infrastructure management interface, has a number of working groups plugging away to increase interest and acceptance of standards that exist by U.S. enterprises and vendors. At the same time, Bumpus says there is ongoing dialogue with other industry groups “to make sure work doesn’t overlap,” a concern expressed by all members of the discussion.

Ogawa and his team are focused on standards with an inter-cloud collaboration interface, which still needs about another year to fully align models and terminologies. While Japan has been one of the most mature nations with cloud standards, there have been some harsh lessons along the way, he said. Amid the human toll and lingering destruction from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Ogawa says cloud storage and shared interfaces could have unified response efforts and moves to keep systems online.

“We learned a lot about continuing with mission-critical services even in such devastating times,” he said.

In China, much of the standards work is just getting off the ground, with plans for a national cloud roadmap and new working group, according to Wang. She noted that “many” of the large companies in China have joined in on this standardization work, though, and Wang cited efforts at a few media entities where there are “difficulties” being expressed early on. Some of the complications have come from gaps and differences in existing best practices from internal and external sources, with an emphasis in China to use existing standards if they are based in real work scenarios, Wang said.

Morrow, who is also a research engineer for Cisco, primarily works with ITU-T on the cloud and its interoperability for European telecom providers. From that perspective, she says that the big, and probably lasting, pain point over cloud standards is around differing systems views that break up a holistic approach. She expects ITU-T’s work toward inter-cloud network infrastructure to be among those standards initiatives that come to fruition closer to the beginning of next year.

Enacting cloud standards is in its early stages, made all the more erratic due to regional differences and priorities over cloud computing, according to published reports.

Click here for a re-broadcast of the panel talk.

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