New Initiative Aims to Stamp Out Cloud Lock-In

Members of the cloud computing industry this week announced the Open Cloud Initiative, a non-profit organization to advocate open standards in cloud computing, at the OSCON 2011 open source convention in Portland, Ore.

The organization maintains a set of Open Cloud Principles, adherence to which will determine whether a given product or service can indeed bear the open cloud label.

It was set up because there is no common set of standards cloud service providers adhere to, which means data often can’t be migrated between cloud service providers.

The open cloud standards seek to ensure interoperability and make it easy to enter and leave cloud services regardless of what systems they use.

This is the industry’s second attempt at setting up an open cloud standard; Sun Microsystems launched an open cloud platform in March of 2009, but Oracle entered an agreement to purchase the company the following month and nothing’s been nothing heard about Sun’s platform since.

It’s not clear exactly how useful an open cloud initiative will be.

“People aren’t doing as much with public clouds because they’re concerned with security and other issues such as application behavior and legal issues, and you’re seeing private clouds being installed,” Joe Clabby, president of Clabby Analytics, told LinuxInsider.

“As far as standards go, I don’t see the private cloud space being that fragmented,” Greg Potter, a research analyst at In-Stat, told LinuxInsider. “I don’t see the OCI as having much of an impact.”

Opening Up the OCI

One of the members of the OCI board of directors is Sam Ramji, who headed Microsoft’s CodePlex Foundation briefly after it was launched. The foundation has since been renamed the “OuterCurve Foundation.

Others include Shanley Kane, who’s head of developer relations at Apigee; Marc Fleischmann, CEO and cofounder of RisingTide Systems; Rick Clark, a principal engineer at Cisco and the chief architect for Openstack; and Noirin Plunkett, who’s executive vice president of the Apache Software Foundation.

The Open Cloud Principles used by the OCI require multiple full, faithful and interoperable implementations, at least one of which is open source so that users have an alternative system that they can deploy and don’t have to hire developers to implement open standards for them.

About the Open Cloud Principles

Users must be able to enter and leave open cloud services easily no matter who they are and what their IT systems consist of.

Open cloud systems must represent all user data and metadata in open standard formats and expose all functionality through open standard interfaces.

Open standards must be documented in all their details, published and be made both accessible and reusable at no charge. Any patents present on parts of the standards must irrevocably be made available royalty-free.

Other requirements for open standards are that any trademarks possibly present on identifiers must be used for non-discriminatory enforcement of compliance only, and that there must be multiple, full and faithful implementations, at least one of which must be licensed under an Open Source Initiative-approved license or placed into the public domain.

Examples of OSI-approved licenses are the Academic Free License 3.0 (AFL-3.0), the Apache License 2.0, the BSD 3-Clause “New” or “Revised” license, the Eiffel Forum License V2.0, and various GNU General Public Licenses.

OCI: A Real-World Guideline or Just Vapor?

It’s difficult to discern whether or not OCI will have much of a future.

Its principle — to make data fungible between different cloud service providers in order to avoid vendor lock-in — may well be moot for all but the smallest companies.

IBM has been offering both private and hybrid clouds for some years now, and June saw a slew of other vendors stampede into or expand their private or hybrid cloud offerings.

They include NTT America; HP, which extended its Hybrid Delivery solutions portfolio; and Dell.

“I think the world will shake out into hybrid clouds,” Clabby said.

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