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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.

VMware has been seeding new cloud providers with software that enables them to run VMHD files, its favored format. So far, Verizon and AT&T have plunged into cloud computing with that as their favored specification for workloads.

Microsoft's VHD, which works with its Hyper-V hypervisor and Citrix Systems XenServer, is another format.

During the panel, several members of the audience disparaged the notion that a standards setting body or government agency might generate specifications that in some way aided the further development of cloud computing. Several suggested that standards were best set by the marketplace, where the most useful technologies tend to win out over those that are over complicated or inefficient once implemented.

The discussion between standards advocates on the panel, such as Winston Bumpus, VMware's director of standards and president of the DMTF standards body, and members of the audience was vigorous.

One attendee named Mark declared that the debate was of little value because the most important cloud vendor, Amazon, wasn't in the room and would decline to attend any future discussion of standards.

The truth about standard setting, he said, was that they were set by a defacto shakeout in the marketplace, and dominant vendors tended to produce the defacto standards. Sometimes lesser vendors get together to support a standard in hopes of "slowing the market leader down" and get it to adhere to a standard that they can use themselves.

"It's a little bit of oversimplication," Mark said, "but this is a meeting of losers."

A moment later, Bumpus responded: "I'm not trying to slow Amazon down, but they shouldn't be off by themselves" as the only influence over cloud computing standards.

Archie Reed, panel member and chief technologist for cloud security at HP, agreed. Reed sits on the Cloud Security Alliance, an industry group seeking to establish the means of defining security levels and supplying standards for security in the cloud. "Some of the standards groups are moving pretty fast. Amazon has a lot wrapped up in proprietary standards, but rarely does one company satisfy all its customers' needs," he warned.

When it comes to cloud computing, shared standards are going to emerge that increase the value of the cloud and some of them may prove dangerous for any one vendor to ignore, he said.

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