A group hug happened Monday, July 13, in Arlington, VA.
A gathering of cloud compute aficionados circled to hold hands and mind meld on the subject of cloud compute standards. All this happened under the watchful eye of the feds – ever lurking in the background.
The goal of the meeting was in the words of the organizers: “to initiate a dialogue with government IT leaders on the theme of "Coordinating Standardization Activities to Remove Government Cloud Computing Roadblocks". Potential government implementers of Cloud Computing will supply their feedback on key issues that could delay federal Cloud Computing deployments.”
I really like it when the government is forward thinking.
But, how sad if it takes the government to finally tame the cloud computing market. Is free enterprise that broken? Whatever happened to co-opetition?
In past cloud storage blogs, I’ve harped on the lack of interoperability between cloud storage vendors.
Yes, some use common web technologies such as REST, but that is not enough. As always, the devil is in the details. For example, the specifics for “getting” and “putting” can vary widely. And, the metadata – that’s the information that describes what the data is – is, well let’s just say, freeform between vendors. All this adds up to a huge distraction from achieving a ubiquitous and commodity-like cloud storage offering. Sure, the likes of Amazon, and soon Azure from Microsoft, can offer cloud storage, but getting the two to interoperate will take, well, that elusive rocket scientist to bridge the interfaces.
On a side note, a recent “Visual Studio Magazine” article titled “Targeting Azure Storage” purported to show how easy it was to hook up and use Azure storage. After reading the article, my head hurts. The article instructs: “You’ll need to download and install the Windows Azure SDK to provide the local Developer Fabric and Storage services, as well as the Storage Client sample C# class library which enables manipulating blobs as .NET objects.” Sounds like a standards-based cloud storage API is a long way off….but I digress.
Back to the group hug and interoperability:
This past Monday, the Object Management Group and friends met to discuss and organize around defining cloud compute standards. This is joint effort by a variety of groups to please not only end users but a Federal government cliental. Kinda like trying to define the charter for the UN; a truly gargantuan task. Talk about your league of nations, presenting were SNIA, DMTF, Open Cloud Consortium, Open Grid Forum, OASIS, Cloud Security Alliance, Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum and some others for good measure. Even - OMG (the more familiar “Oh my god”) - a vendor presented. This is quite the distinguished crew and includes some familiar names in the industry.
Meetings like this can only help to keep the focus on cloud interoperability.
Don’t expect great things, but do have hope that incremental progress for leveling of the cloud compute (and by extension the cloud storage) playing field. Cloud interoperability issues weave not just through vendors, but also into government and legal realms. Unfortunately, the legal representation at this little get together is lacking. But, nevertheless, getting everyone in the same room is the best hope to get the ball rolling. For example, SNIA is boldly (tongue in cheek) defining a new term: Data Storage as a Service (DaaS). This may seem like a small thing but, hey, it’s something. What’s more interesting is SNIA’s attempt to architect a cloud storage interface separating data paths from management paths – definitely an approach with promise and worth a hug.
I have no doubt that smart folks can define a cloud storage interface, elegant beyond expectations.
The fear I have is: can a standardized API become relevant to the key cloud storage/compute vendors? Will Microsoft bend their Azure .NET interface to a standard? Or does the standard need to bend to Microsoft?; or Amazon, or Nirvanix, or Rackspace, or whoever. Maybe the best thing is for a significant player to throw a spec on the table as a starting point.
If cloud storage vendors take up the standards work, its needs to happen quickly and include the leading suppliers with strong support from end customers.
Otherwise, we will spend years in a quagmire of competing cloud storage suppliers, locking in customers. To that end, for any standard to emerge and become the “lingua franca” of the cloud industry, this pointed question needs to be put to the cloud storage providers: Do you plan to compete on a commodity basis? If a pause ensues and the answer is “ahh,no”, then there is little hope for an interface standard and cloud storage will amount to a reinvention of an outsourcing play.
Posted by Gene Ruth