Sam Johnston ("Cloud standards: not so fast...") is one of many who say cloud standardization efforts are premature. Johnston points to the market-driven ecosystem that has sprung up overnight around Amazon Web Services as an example of what kind of cloud standards are needed, namely "simple, rugged, market tested interfaces defined by the innovators in each area (virtualization, storage, services, etc.)." I tend to agree that much of the cloud standardization effort at the moment seems to be putting the cart before the horse, although I'm intrigued by the possibility of leveraging some of the work that's been done on the new Open Virtualization Format (OVF), created by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) standards organization. OVF is a platform independent, efficient, extensible, open packaging and distribution format for virtual machines that allows virtualization packaging, distribution, installation, and management -- all within an archive or Tar file such as "myApp.ova," which can include a digital signature for security.
OVF can be compared roughly with the MP3 digital music format that is used to encapsulate music information. A packaging format that is vendor-neutral, it allows virtual machines, or sets of virtual machines, to be installed on any platform including public, virtual private, and private clouds. OVF is based on the DMTF's Common Information Model (CIM), which would make a good starting point for a cloud API. (If you're not familiar with CIM, it's an open standard that defines how managed elements in an IT environment are represented as a common set of objects and relationships between them. This is intended to allow consistent management of these managed elements, independent of their manufacturer or provider.) This seems like as good a blueprint as any for cloud standardization, although I would like some safeguards to assure the separation of public, virtual private, and private clouds. Off-grid private clouds should be able to be autonomous in much the same way that off-grid homes can generate electrical power on-site with renewable energy sources such as solar or wind; with a generator and adequate fuel reserves; or simply done without, as in Amish communities.