Sean Kelley, the global CIO for Deutsche Asset Management and the newly named chairman of TM Forum's Enterprise Cloud Leadership Council, says cloud computing has had its share of hype. "But now the hype-dust is settling," he says, and underneath is a technology that could transform the way businesses buy and use technology.

The purpose of the ECLC, which represents the users of cloud services within the TM Forum's Cloud Services Initiative, is to stimulate growth of an open marketplace for cloud services by bringing together enterprise users and cloud providers. (TM Forum is a not-for-profit association for the information, communications and entertainment industries.) The initiative intends to remove barriers and to accelerate adoption of cloud services by collaboratively establishing industry standards and best practices. Members of the cloud initiative include some the largest technology vendors including CA, Cisco, HP, IBM and Microsoft, leading service providers such as AT&T, BT and Telstra and large users such as Deutsche Bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Cloud computing is "really going to change how financial institutions will consume technology and the way vendors will need to provide technology," says Jeanne Capachin, research vp with IDC Financial Insights. While Capachin has been enthusiastic about the prospects for cloud computing for some time, after attending her company's Cloud Leadership Conference in June and speaking with industry executives she is even more so. During one panel discussion the CIO of ING, Alan Boehme, said the switch to cloud computing might eventually prove as important as the switch from client servers to the Web.

One member of the cloud initiative is already pushing hard for change. In a speech this spring to the Committee for Economic Development in Australia, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia's CIO, Michael Harte, reportedly said: "We will never buy another data centre. We will never buy another rack or server or storage device or network device again. I will never let any organization that I work for get locked intro proprietary hardware or software again. I'll never tell my teams in the business that it will be weeks to get them hardware provision."

Kelley, for his part, sees no time to waste. He believes the industry as whole needs to seize the initiative quickly before separate institutions choose to pursue cloud computing on their own. He wants substantial work done on setting standards and best practices by December and says vendors could have products in the market based on those by the end of next year. Kelley says there are four primary areas where the council can make inroads: "infrastructure as a service (the back room); database as a service (to gain scale), file systems as a service (software such as CRM); and ultimately the desktop "to create a truly unified virtual desktop where things get integrated at the glass."

A big unknown for the initiative is whether it will gain the critical mass necessary to achieve its ambitious agenda. It is conspicuously missing a major U.S. financial institution as a member, but Capachin says officials there tell her they are close to signing a major U.S. bank.

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