Cloudy Day on the Cloud Front

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We’ve been asking “what is the definition of a cloud” for several years now.  Possibly there’s a large group of you that think its already well-defined.  I remember blogging about the security of clouds in BlogIdol 1.  So I looked to see if there were standards being developed, and guess what, there are! 

The following is from Network World in 2009:  “Everyone’s talking about building a cloud these days. But if the IT world is filled with computing clouds, will each one be treated like a separate island or will open standards allow all to interoperate with each other?

That’s one of the questions being examined by the Open Cloud Consortium (OCC), a newly formed group of universities that is both trying to improve the performance of storage and computing clouds spread across geographically disparate data centers and promote open frameworks that will let clouds operated by different entities work seamlessly together.”

And even more interesting, ISO has started working on standards for clouds too, as reported in the Cloud Computing Journal: 

“The scope will include Standardization for interoperable Distributed Application Platform and services including Web Services, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and Cloud Computing. SC 38 will pursue active liaison and collaboration with all appropriate bodies (including other JTC 1 subgroups and external organizations, e.g., consortia) to ensure the development and deployment of interoperable distributed application platform and services standards in relevant areas.
The scope will include Standardization for interoperable Distributed Application Platform and services including Web Services, Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and Cloud Computing. SC 38 will pursue active liaison and collaboration with all appropriate bodies (including other JTC 1 subgroups and external organizations, e.g., consortia) to ensure the development and deployment of interoperable distributed application platform and services standards in relevant areas.”

So, is this new focus on standards for cloud computing a good thing?  I’ve been a long term supporter of the standardization process, so I have to say YES.  However, experience has said that standards can only come together when the time is right and the benefits out-weigh the restrictions.  If we can’t define it, we can’t standardize it!!

So, what is a cloud anyway?  To try out a weather analogy…….

There can be lots of individual clouds in the sky.   Quite often they join together and look like one big cloud.  There are many different styles of cloud (and they actually look dofferent to the eye).  Clouds can provide different services – snow, rain, hail, sun screen, and so on.  Clouds appear and disappear, often as if by magic – although we’re better than ever at predicting when “services” will be delivered and where.  Clouds are hard to control (does this apply?) and they certainly defy ownership.  Perhaps YOU can keep this analogy going…….

For me, there’s an important similarity between Clouds and XXX-As-A-Service.  Perhaps Clouds are the underpinnings for Servers-as-a-Service, Storage-As-A-Service, Networks-As-A-Service,  Social Communications-As-A-Service (is this Facebook?) and so on.  Are we seeing the development of new paradigms, or is this just a new name for shared technologies applied in more modern ways?

I’ll be exploring these ideas a little more during the BlogIdol contest, especially the standards aspects (which i didn’t know about until tonight), but I’d certainly be interested in feedback – good or critical – to help me steer my way through this topic.

Don Sheppard Don Sheppard (93 Posts)

I'm a Blogging Idol enthusiast who also does consulting for a living. I began my career as a railway data communications engineer. After working for a bank for 7 years, I took up the consulting challenge and I still find it challenging! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm back into ISO standards development - in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is http://www.concon.com


  • John Pickett

    I’ve enjoyed your posts in the previous contests, Don, and you seem to have found a fruitful avenue to follow again. It will be interesting to follow the evolution of standards for cloud computing and the vested interests that compete to impose them.

  • Don Sheppard

    I was surprised to find that standards work is theoretically in progress. I emailed the SCC to see if there is active involvement from Canada. I’m looking forward to their answer!

  • Samy Benzekry

    There are a lot of work going on for cloud definition. NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), for example, has posted a cloud definition (http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SNS/cloud-computing/index.html). At version 15, you can bet a lot of thought has been put into it. Your mission now is to now evangelize the rest of the population based that definition. A fair amount of goodwill and luck to you will be needed. Although it is a fairly obvious definition for anyone in the IT field, somehow explaining it to potential clients I have found leaves the pupil somewhat perplexed. The most success I have had, is to use the word “Service” next to it and to quickly follow with an example. So, and example of IAAS is Amazon services, and example is PAAS is GOOGLE app engine or Azure and SAAS is workday or salesforce. It may not be a perfect method, but, down here where the grass grows, it’s a “graspable” message. Good luck on grasping clouds, you know, they are made of the expansion water vapour that cools as it rises, you are going to need a large net!