New Standard Aims For Service-Level Cloud Portability


OASIS’ TOSCA standard, backed by Cisco, IBM, SAP and others, allows the creation of templates for deploying services on any compliant cloud

A group of IT companies including Cisco, IBM and SAP on Monday released the first draft of a specification intended to give cloud services a new level of portability across different vendors’ cloud platforms.

The specification, called Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA), is intended to go a step further than standardisation efforts such as CDMI or OVF by including high-level elements such as server and storage requirements as well as management policies in a “service template”.

Broad applicability

In order to back up its aim of extending to all areas of a cloud service, the TOSCA effort includes participation from a variety of different vendors, including 3M, CA, Capgemini, Citrix, EMC, Google, NetApp, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Red Hat and others. The specification is handled by the standards body OASIS.

“TOSCA has broad applicability to the topic of cloud computing,” OASIS said in a statement. “The specification touches a wide range of specialty areas – from the actual cloud services and applications to the underlying cloud infrastructure, and from cloud service providers to cloud service and application developers.”

However, some of the biggest names in cloud technology, including Amazon and Microsoft, aren’t included. That may hinder TOSCA’s portability efforts, since services will only be portable across clouds that comply with the standard.

High-level portability

The standard is intended to allow “much higher” levels of cloud service portability, including the ability to deploy to any compliant cloud, easier migration of existing applications to the cloud, the ability to deploy in ad-hoc “bursts” as needed and the creation of services that run on multiple clouds, according to OASIS.

“Service templates can describe the topology of complex services and applications,” OASIS stated. “They can also specify the administration of such services and applications, e.g., deploy, patch, and scale out.”

The standard is intended to pave the way to further development of portability standards that could include even more of the infrastructure surrounding a service, OASIS said.

“Ultimately, this will benefit the consumers, developers, and providers of cloud-based solutions and provide an essential foundation for even higher-level TOSCA-based vocabularies that could be focused on specific solutions and domains,” OASIS stated.

Other standards

Previous standards such as OVF have mainly focused on packaging formats for deployment on hypervisors, and haven’t included the higher-level elements that TOSCA brings into the picture, OASIS said.

Meanwhile, TOSCA could be compatible with cloud infrastructure initiatives such as OpenStack, OASIS said. “TOSCA is a standard specification and provides no implementation,” the standards body stated. “For example, implementations of TOSCA could leverage OpenStack and bind to the OpenStack interfaces as the implementation of operations defined by TOSCA Node Types.”

The draft specification (PDF) is available from the TOSCA website.

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