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3/18/2010
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Cloud Connect: NIST Prepares 'Use Case' Site

The National Institute of Standards and Technology will build a "use case" repository that may eventually give shape to cloud computing specifications.

NIST, a federal agency that has been instrumental in defining cloud computing, will take on an additional role as a central publisher of cloud use cases accompanied by a recommended reference technology implementation.

It's not standards setting, exactly, something the weary veterans of government vs. industry battles inside the National Institute of Standards and Technology would rather avoid. But the airing of strong use cases where a technology set is deemed suitable for a particular problem could lead to a specification for a standard, a NIST representative at the Cloud Connect show in Santa Clara, Calif., said Wednesday in an interview.

Lee Badger, a computer scientist in the Computer Security Division of NIST, said use cases submitted by federal agencies, vendors in the computer industry, or enterprise cloud implementers will be reviewed and validated by NIST, to see if they prove to be a satisfactory solution to a problem.

"We will make the results available to everyone" at a future portal site that is likely to be built by this unit of the agency, Badger said. No date has been set for launch and Badger resisted committing the agency to any time frame that fell within the next few months. But he didn't reject the notion that it is likely to be in operation sometime this year.

Last fall, NIST was charged by federal CIO Vivek Kundra with coming up with a process that validates successful cloud implementations within the federal government and airs them for other agencies to consider.

The use case validation site is part of fulfilling that charter. The reviews are meant to quickly share expertise derived from early efforts "so each agency doesn't have to do the work all over again," Badger said after the panel, "Where are Standards Going?" He was not a member of the panel, but NIST's name came up frequently in comments on standards as Badger sat in the audience.

Asked for an example of a use case that it might review, he said many early cloud users want to figure out how they will move their workloads among clouds. "People care about being able to move data and processes from one cloud to another," he said.

Asked if they might also want a common virtual machine format to move workloads from the enterprise into cloud, Badger restricted himself to the former comment. The issue of transferable virtual machine formats plunges into different vendors' interests. For example, Amazon Web Services uses a proprietary format, AMI or Amazon Machine Images, for its EC2 cloud, by far the market leader.

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