The idea and figure below came to me during a somewhat passionate discussion of software standards at IBM SWG’s recent Analyst Insight event.

(Great event, BTW, and kudos to group boss Steve Mills and an exceptional group of executives for ensuring a focus on pragmatism and vision over blather; and super kudos to Sarita Torres of IBM and her exception AR group for keeping us all both intent and content.)  

For those looking for more detail and insight, the idea below will be built into an upcoming Strategic Perspective for our premium research clients that develops the idea further, and provides more depth and guidance for clients, especially within our Boundary-free Enterprise™ model.

My net position is that the higher we go in the Saugatuck Cloud provider/technology & services EcoStack™, the greater the need for – and business benefit of – standards, whether specific to a technology or, more importantly, how technologies are used and work together.

We started establishing this position in a great Research Alert earlier this month on the crying need for workload standards. Our key point then was as follows:

Saugatuck believes that most efforts of the #OpenStack group, as well as other Cloud-oriented “open” groups like #CloudStack, The Open Group, and even the Open Grid Forum, will deliver limited benefit to enterprise Cloud users, mainly because these efforts tend to miss a core enterprise user Cloud need for openness and standardization: The ability to migrate and utilize workloads in Clouds, between Clouds, and between Clouds and on-premises IT (i.e., hybridized environments). Without this, such groups, while doing great work, are not developing/delivering Interoperability for users, as much as they are defining, developing and delivering new products.

I know, the discussion and position is not completely new. But our core position certainly seems to be widely ignored in most discussions about Cloud, at least when it comes to the need and desirability of standards. The deepest and most-involved discussions tend to devolve quickly down-stack to tech-specific standards (especially as regards development techs and tools), rather than standards for their use and interaction. I’m thinking of it as ignoring the fact that we’re in a forest, while we try to figure out what to do with all these trees.

My net: The higher we go in the EcoStack™, the fewer applicable and useful standards exist, but the more they are needed – and the greater the relative cost to the enterprise of not having them becomes.

My first piece of guidance for Cloud providers: Look up, not down, to maximize opportunity/profit for integration and customization. My initial guidance for users/buyers: Be aware that relatively few standards exist to get this stuff to work well together within business processes, and be very aware that that will end up costing you a lot more than you think (or plan) to make everything work together, despite the fact that it may come from the Cloud.

Here’s my vision of the situation:

This blog originally appeared at Saugatuck Lens360.