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Commentary
9/14/2010
04:47 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Be Realistic About Cloud Standards

Standards are a funny thing. We all want them, rarely get them, and always seek more. It's pretty much a checklist item these days when it comes to cloud computing, but we could be in a bit of denial about the true value of standards.

Standards are a funny thing. We all want them, rarely get them, and always seek more. The idea is that it's better to leverage standards that support concepts such as data interoperability and application portability than to have no standards at all. It's pretty much a checklist item these days, but we could be in a bit of denial about the true value of standards.

Cloud computing is no exception to the desire for standards. Existing standards organizations, such as OMG, are pushing cloud standards, as are new names including the Open Cloud Consortium and the Cloud Security Alliance, just to name a few.This is where we can learn from history. In the world of SOA, I tracked about 150 WS-* standards ranging from service interoperability to policy portability, but few stuck. Indeed, standards were mostly marketing efforts. Many vendors realize that those who are on the fence around emerging spaces such as SOA, and now cloud computing, love to hear about the use of "open standards" to remove the risk from moving to new technology. Thus, technology providers created their own standards, usually within existing standards organizations, more for marketing and sales purposes than from a legitimate interest in the concept of standards.

The trouble with the new set of cloud computing standards is that they could be following similar patterns. So far, I don't see standards that provide enough detail to be meaningful. They are mostly collections of white papers and position papers that actually do little to provide the cloud computing players with common marching orders around the creation and deployment of their technology that will provide you with portability options going forward.

Indeed, it may not be in their best interests to provide you with standards, and thus provide you with options to leverage their competitors. This speaking-out-of-both-sides-of-your-face game is not at all new, and I suspect will be more common in the world of cloud computing considering the sheer mass of the market.

So, should you consider standards? Sure, I think the concept of standards continues to be valuable, although we have a poor history of deployment and delivery on the value. For example, I would not consider standards a hindrance for leveraging cloud computing. When I hear enterprises say, "we're waiting for the standards to emerge," they may be waiting so long that they will miss the opportunities that cloud computing can bring.Standards are a funny thing. We all want them, rarely get them, and always seek more. It's pretty much a checklist item these days when it comes to cloud computing, but we could be in a bit of denial about the true value of standards.

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