Open Data Center Alliance Sets Standards For Cloud Providers

A group of 280 global companies has joined together to lay down industry standards for cloud computing that cloud providers would adopt to assure customers of what they’re getting for their investment in the cloud. The Open Data Center Alliance on Tuesday released the standards that, if adopted, will clear up some of the questions and concerns about cloud computing that have made customers reluctant to adopt the new computing model.

June 7, 2011

3 Min Read
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A group of 280 global companies has joined together to lay down industry standards for cloud computing that cloud providers would adopt to assure customers of what they’re getting for their investment in the cloud. The Open Data Center Alliance on Tuesday released the standards that, if adopted, will clear up some of the questions and concerns about cloud computing that have made customers reluctant to adopt the new computing model.

The alliance, created just seven months ago, has focused on four main areas of concern about cloud adoption: security; cloud automation; management and regulatory compliance; and transparency of pricing and services to be sold. The alliance plan details specific standards cloud providers would adopt to address those areas.

“We’re hoping that with the buying power of the group, vendors will start paying attention, to understand the problems that some of us [buyers] are having and try to solve them, because they are creating a problem of adoption,” says Andrew Feig, an alliance board member and executive director of the technology adviser group with UBS Global Technology Infrastructure Services, a unit of the Swiss-based global financial services company.

In addition to UBS, other steering committee members of the alliance include BMW, Lockheed Martin, Deutsche Bank and Walt Disney Co. A second tier of contributing members, along with the steering committee, set policy. The general membership is made up of scores of users of cloud services. A few cloud service providers are also members, including Verizon and Terremark, a provider of IT infrastructure services, says Feig. Combined, the member companies spend about $100 billion on IT annually.

The alliance cites IDC research from 2010 calculating that, if companies spent $50 billion, collectively, on cloud computing, that investment would return $25 billion in savings between 2010 and 2015.

In the first category of Secure Federation, the alliance cites a lack of consistent security delivery and management across enterprise and cloud services and says new cloud threats could emerge that users may not be protected from. The report cites a 2010 survey of IT people by the consulting firm KPMG stating that more than 75 percent of respondents worry about the security of cloud computing. The alliance calls on vendors to provide security assurance to customers and enable security compliance monitoring that could be done by third parties. Fieg spoke of “bronze, silver, gold or platinum” levels of security, depending on the security needs of customers and the type of cloud service, such as private versus public clouds.The cloud automation assurance issue concerns virtual machine (VM) interoperability, regardless of the type of VM technology being used (be it from VMware, Citrix, Microsoft or others), and an assurance of I/O control, guaranteeing a quality of service (QoS) standard for availability of adequate network bandwidth across VMs.

Under common management and policy, the Alliance calls for a common level of management services across cloud providers and assurance of compliance with regulatory requirements that customers must meet whether their data is on premise or in the cloud. The KPMG survey showed that more than 50 percent of IT people surveyed cite regulatory compliance issues as an impediment to cloud adoption.

Lastly, the alliance calls for greater transparency among cloud providers, including adoption of a common service catalog so customers could compare cloud service features and pricing across different cloud providers. Providers would also be required to provide a carbon footprint measurement so customers could determine how much energy they’ll use when choosing one service over another.

Intel is a technical adviser to the alliance, a role the chip maker has fulfilled through many advances in technology, says Raejeanne Skillern, a director of cloud marketing in the Data Center Group at Intel.

“We are a company that for decades has been experiencing working at technology inflection points, at evolutions in the industry and in helping to drive standards,” Skillern says. “We believe that any time technology is accelerated that it’s good for the industry.”

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