Open Cloud Manifesto – Open For Business

Darryl K. Taft covers IBM, big data and a number of other topics for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Critics say the IBM-backed Open Cloud Manifesto is a bid to use standards to slow down faster-moving competitors

The Open Cloud Manifesto, a call for industry-wide standards for “open” cloud computing, has finally launched, with support from its main sponsor IBM, and other companies including Sun and Cisco. But major cloud players Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Salesforce are all conspicuous by their absence.

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The manifesto – now published at opencloudmanifesto.org – is supported by IBM and a host of other companies, including Sun Microsystems, VMware, Cisco, EMC, Red Hat, Novell, and Juniper Networks. Other supporters include AT&T, Aptana, Engine Yard, Enomaly, and the Object Management Group.

However, many of the largest players in the cloud have decided not to support the initiative – including Microsoft, Google, Amazon.com, Salesforce.com and the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF).

According to its organisers, the Open Cloud Manifesto “is meant to start a conversation around standards and help clients ask the right questions about cloud interoperability. This document is not a contract with vendors or a position on what standards should be. It is directed to opening an important discussion as clouds incorporate into business and society. You can draw a parallel between cloud today and the Web in the mid ’90s when Prodigy and CompuServe had their own proprietary neighbourhoods on the Web. Back then, people were just starting to ask if it were possible for things to be open and interoperate. This is just the beginning.”

In a blog post from 26 March, Steven Martin, Microsoft’s senior director of developer platform management, questioned the manifesto, saying it showed bias. Later, when the document began to leak, many observers wondered why Martin and Microsoft objected to what some called an innocuous document. Martin then said the document was “vacuous,” and questioned the issue of governance of the organisation that would be in charge of maintaining any standards or practices put forth regarding the future of cloud computing.

“Who will manage this effort and determine who is in compliance?” Martin asked. “If the answer is IBM, I have significant concerns about that.”

Sources said that the OMG standards-making group has offered to provide that governance role and is being seriously considered to take over the responsibility. The OMG has run several vendor-neutral standards efforts and has no interest in ownership or gaining anything from any deliverables resulting from the effort, sources said.

IBM’s leadership role in an organisation to champion the cloud could be a problem to some sources who alleged IBM has no coherent cloud strategy or offering of its own. However, having little cloud activity for developers, IBM has run what amounts to a vast cloud computing operations for years, for its own research and for various Big Blue customers.

Said one observer at one of the holdout companies, “These guys calling for standards are doing so out of their own self-interest. They’re behind in the cloud computing game, so they’re using standards to slow things down until they can catch up. Standards have no place in a nascent market like this. The cloud computing market could very well be 180 degrees different in 6-12 months. Who knows?”

Meanwhile, despite the early hoopla about the manifesto and who is supporting it, holdout vendors may get into discussions., Microsoft is sending Andrew Layman, a veteran of standards bodies and standards wars, to represent the company at a meeting in New York to coincide with the Cloud Computing Expo that opens today. And the CCIF is holding its Wall Street Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum on April 2, where there will be more room for discussion.

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