IT experts and cloud consumers understand the need for cloud standards, but standardization seems like an elusive possibility when the objectives of those standards remain undefined.
Typically, standards are created to drive a market; end users or consumers usually have little say in the process of standardization.
"We end up with standards created to service technology providers, not the consumers," said David S. Linthicum, CTO and founder of cloud computing experts company, Blue Mountain Labs.
Cloud computing standards proponents, however, disagree. "For the cloud to operate, to deliver on the promise, there absolutely has to be standards," said Andrew Watson, liaison officer for Cloud Standards Customer Council. "[Standards] are simply necessary for something like cloud."
The fear is that by standardizing the cloud, dominant vendors might lose customers. And losing customers means losing business. But the truth is cloud computing standards may actually improve the market as a whole.
Cloud computing standards take shape
In a surprising move to improve interoperability and portability between public and private clouds, seven cloud services providers took off their competitive gloves and formed Cloud Application Management for Platforms (CAMP) last week, the Platform as a Service (PaaS) management API.
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Collaboration for the standard between Oracle Corp., CloudBees Inc., Cloudsoft Corp., Red Hat Inc., Rackspace Inc., Huawei Technologies Co. and Software AG began in late 2010. CAMP was submitted to OASIS to create a common foundation for deploying and managing applications across multiple cloud environments; the API will also increase interoperability and foster innovation, according to founding companies.
"We offer the opportunity for vendors and consumers to join," said Carol Geyer, senior director of communications and development at OASIS.
"[CAMP] allows us to compete [on] a more common ground," said Steven G. Harris, CloudBees’ senior vice president of products.
The standard can help guide the industry into an ecosystem of interoperable and portable cloud systems. And that’s where OASIS comes into play; it ensures the standards developed respond to the marketplace.
The group felt OASIS was the best option to help ensure broad industry participation, "providing an open, collaborative and productive setting," said Jeff Mischkinsky, a senior director at Oracle.
When developing CAMP, OASIS will use a non-assertion mode, an open mode that fosters vendor and consumer adoption as well as community input. Open mode also means CAMP implementers do not need a license, which is appealing to many cloud consumers.
United the cloud market stands, but it's still divided
Not all cloud services providers are on board with adopting CAMP specifications, said Richard Pharro, CEO of APM Group Ltd., who believes small vendor groups will form and create their own standards, especially because the largest vendors such as Google and Amazon are not on board.
"There is really no compelling reason to join CAMP, unless suddenly there is a demand from those consuming PaaS to drive towards CAMP, which is highly unlikely," said Linthicum.
Nonetheless, Pharro said he agrees that cloud standardization has value. "It opens up opportunity by providing innovation," he said. "Transportability of data makes it easier for users to manage data across multiple suppliers."
The truth is staring the cloud industry in the face: Cloud standards are a necessity. The question of adoption by cloud services providers still lingers unanswered.
Fernanda Aspe is the editorial assistant for TechTarget’s Data Center and Virtualization Media Group.