The State of Cloud Standards

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February 10, 2012 – As cloud computing adoption rates soar, standards groups see promise with establishing aligned interfaces, rules written into RFPs and SLAs, and harmonized government legislation.

Those were prime expectations for the near-term of cloud computing from discussion topics during an update on cloud standards held Thursday between U.S. and European standards organizations. The virtual summit was led by the Open Data Center Alliance and held in conjunction with the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), standards consortium OMG, storage and networking standards group SNIA, and the European telecommunications and network standards group, ETSI. All of the organizations are doing their own work with end users and vendors to establish cloud standards, which are then discussed among the organizations in bi-weekly calls.

Although representatives from the five organizations stopped short of exact timelines and strict guidelines in the discussion, they each provided insight on the direction of standards in the coming year.

ETSI Cloud Chairman Mike Fisher said updated cloud regulation for data privacy, security and accountability is expected this year from the U.S. and European Union, and there are also high-level discussion among Asian leaders. Fisher cautioned that too much diversion on ownership could cause a legal “nightmare” over adoption, particularly in Europe, and urged both cloud vendors and end users to lend their insight to government leaders.

“I think the overall goal [of legislation] is to be similar, certainly with a level of data protection,” Fisher said. “There will be some national and regional differences, but I think the will is there. Whether it’s in place in the right way depends on [if] the people drafting the legislation really understand where the technology is taking us.”

Winston Bumpus, DMTF president, said his group has reviewed interfaces submitted by vendors and that, by and large, they are more alike than they are different. Establishing a base expectation of interfaces in the near future would address end user concerns over portability, functionality and cost, and could provide a better launch point for vendors on competitive innovation. More input from vendors is ongoing, as well as testing from users, some which has already been embraced by the U.S. government-supported NIST.

Richard Soley, chairman and CEO of OMG, noted that issues raised with security of data in the cloud are often matters that could be covered in a comprehensive service level agreement. A scope of cloud security standards could be written into SLAs and even RFPs to give stability to the largest lingering concern over deployment, Soley said.

Bumpus said during the discussion that the formulation of standards represents a “once in a decade opportunity to revolutionize how computing is done.”

“We’ve been chasing this dream of distributed computing for lots of years and I think we could, with a few key standards, really change the face of computing and what customers deal with and how things are interoperable,” said Bumpus.

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