Moving Toward an Open Process on Cloud Computing Interoperability


Moving Toward an Open Process on Cloud Computing Interoperability


 


From the moment we kicked off our cloud computing effort, openness and interop stood at the forefront.  As those who are using it will tell you, the Azure Services Platform is an open and flexible platform that is defined by web addressability, SOAP, XML, and REST.  Our vision in taking this approach was to ensure that the programming model was extensible and that the individual services could be used in conjunction with applications and infrastructure that ran on both Microsoft and non-Microsoft stacks.  This is something that I’ve written about previously and is an area where we receive some of the most positive feedback from our users.  At MIX, we highlighted the use of our Identity Service and Service Bus with an application written in Python and deployed into Google App Engine which may have been the first public cloud to cloud interop demo.


 


But what about web and cloud-specific standards? Microsoft has enjoyed a long and productive history working with many companies regarding standardization projects; a great example being the WS* work which we continue to help evolve.  We expect interoperability and standards efforts to evolve organically as the industry gradually shifts focus to the huge opportunity provided by cloud computing.


 


Recently, we’ve heard about a “Cloud Manifesto,” purportedly describing principles and guidelines for interoperability in cloud computing. We love the concept. We strongly support an open, collaborative discussion with customers, analysts and other vendors regarding the direction and principles of cloud computing. When the center of gravity is standards and interoperability, we are even more enthusiastic because we believe these are the key to the long term success for the industry, as we are demonstrating through a variety of technologies such as Silverlight, Internet Explorer 8, and the Azure Services Platform. We have learned a lot from the tens-of-thousands of developers who are using our cloud platform and their feedback is driving our efforts. We are happy to participate in a dialogue with other providers and collaborate with them on how cloud computing could evolve to provide additional choices and greater value for customers. 


 


We were admittedly disappointed by the lack of openness in the development of the Cloud Manifesto. What we heard was that there was no desire to discuss, much less implement, enhancements to the document despite the fact that we have learned through direct experience.  Very recently we were privately shown a copy of the document, warned that it was a secret, and told that it must be signed “as is,” without modifications or additional input.  It appears to us that one company, or just a few companies, would prefer to control the evolution of cloud computing, as opposed to reaching a consensus across key stakeholders (including cloud users) through an “open” process. An open Manifesto emerging from a closed process is at least mildly ironic.


 


To ensure that the work on such a project is open, transparent and complete, we feel strongly that any “manifesto” should be created, from its inception, through an open mechanism like a Wiki, for public debate and comment, all available through a Creative Commons license. After all, what we are really seeking are ideas that have been broadly developed, meet a test of open, logical review and reflect principles on which the broad community agrees. This would help avoid biases toward one technology over another, and expand the opportunities for innovation.


 


In our view, large parts of the draft Manifesto are sensible.  Other parts arguably reflect the authors’ biases.  Still other parts are too ambiguous to know exactly what the authors intended.


 


Cloud computing is an exciting, important, but still nascent marketplace. It will, we expect, be driven in beneficial ways by a lot of innovation that we’re dreaming up today.  Innovation lowers costs and increases utility, but it needs freedom to develop.  Freezing the state of cloud computing at any time and (especially now) before it has significant industry and customer experience across a wide range of technologies would severely hamper that innovation.  At the same time, we strongly believe that interoperability (achieved in many different ways) and consensus-based standards will be valuable in allowing the market to develop in an open, dynamic way in response to different customer needs.


 


To net this out… In the coming days or weeks you may hear about an “Open Cloud Manifesto.”  We love the idea of openness in cloud computing and are eager for industry dialogue on how best to think about cloud computing and interoperability. Cloud computing provides fertile ground that will drive innovation, and an open cloud ecosystem is rich with potential for customers and the industry as a whole. So, we welcome an open dialogue to define interoperability principles that reflect the diversity of cloud approaches.  If there is a truly open, transparent, inclusive dialogue on cloud interoperability and standards principles, we are enthusiastically “in”.


 


Here are some principles on the approach we think better serve customers and the industry overall:


·         Interoperability principles and any needed standards for cloud computing need to be defined through a process that is open to public collaboration and scrutiny.


·         Creation of interoperability principles and any standards effort that may result should not be a vendor-dominated process. To be fair as well as relevant, they should have support from multiple providers as well as strong support from customers and other stakeholders.


·         Due recognition should be given to the fact that the cloud market is immature, with a great deal of innovation yet to come. Therefore, while principles can be agreed upon relatively soon, the relevant standards may take some time to develop and coalesce as the cloud computing industry matures.


 


What do you think? Where do you think this best lives? An open Wiki? A conference? A summit where a lively give-and-take can get all the issues recognized in an open way?  What elements of an open cloud are most important to you? Let us (all) know…

Comments (15)

  1. samjohnston says:

    Thanks for getting the ball rolling. As it happens the Cloud Computing Community (the only truly open cloud computing group with no moderation, censorship, invites, sponsors and other malarky) already has a wiki (specifically MediaWiki) for collaborative development of such documents by community consensus (http://wiki.cloudcommunity.org/).

    We have kicked off the Cloud Computing Manifesto document (http://wiki.cloudcommunity.org/wiki/Cloud_Computing_Manifesto) and seeded it with your three suggested principles above.

    Here’s hoping that when this consortium reveals itself their work will also be available under a CC-BY-SA license so we can cherry pick the better parts, but in the mean time if you have anything to add then please feel free to do so.

    Kind regards,

    Sam

  2. pstatho says:

    I really like Sam Johnston’s initiative, specifically Cloud Computing Bill of Rights.

    I would love to see Azure participate in such an open discussion so that cloud computing users get a better sense of what is happening the data centers.

  3. This isn’t your father’s Microsoft!

  4. ruv says:

    Over the last few weeks I have been working closely with several of the largest technology companies and organizations helping to co-author the Open Cloud Manifesto. Our goal is to draft a document that clearly states we (including dozens of supporting companies) believe that like the Internet, the cloud itself should be open. The manifesto does not speak to application code or licensing but instead to the fundamental principles that the Internet was founded upon – an open platform available to all. It is a call to action for the worldwide cloud community to get involved and embrace the principles of the open cloud.

    We are still working on the first version of the manifesto which will be published Monday, March 30th with a goal of being ratified by the greater cloud community. Given the nature of this document we have attempted to be as inclusive as possible inviting most of the major names in technology to participate in the initial draft. The intention of this first draft is to act as a line in the sand, a starting point for others to get involved.  That being said this manifesto is not specifically targeting any one company or industry but instead is intended to engage a dialogue on the opportunities and benefits of fostering an open cloud ideology for everyone.

    Many clouds will continue to be different in a number of important ways, providing unique value for organizations. It is not our intention to define standards for every capability in the cloud and create a single homogeneous cloud environment. Rather, as cloud computing matures to address several key principles that we believe must be followed to ensure the cloud is open and delivers the choice, flexibility and agility organizations demand. This is just one of several initiatives and announcements we will be making in the coming weeks as we move to organize the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF) and Cloud Camp into a formalized organization.

    If you would like to be part of the discussion we invite you to get involved at our Open Cloud Manifesto Discussion Group  (http://groups.google.com/group/opencloud)

    Reuven Cohen

    CCIF Instigator / Open Cloud Manifesto

    http://www.cloudforum.org

  5. randybias says:

    I’m extremely heartened by the discussion on open standards for cloud computing.  As you know GoGrid led some of this charge when we licensed our API specification under a Creative Commons license.  We always knew this just one of many small steps that need to happen.

    I think that Microsoft’s intentions and Ruv’s intentions are not at odds.  This ongoing conversation is required to work through these kinks.

    One of my main takeaways from the CCIF meeting in January however was the notion that there are possibly hundreds of necessary standards.  With so many constituents (applications, platforms, infrastructure, resellers, vendors, ISVs, and more) we have a lot of ground to cover in the coming years to make cloud standards work.

    Hopefully we can make sure the conversation stays reasonably amicable.  I think we can be friendly while also have healthy contentious debats that help shed light on what is needed.

    Looking forward to it.

    –Randy Bias

       VP Technology Strategy, GoGrid

  6. mamund says:

    While I don’t doubt the intent of the Cloud team one bit, this quote in your post jumped out at me:

    "It appears to us that one company, or just a few companies, would prefer to control the evolution of cloud computing, as opposed to reaching a consensus across key stakeholders (including cloud users) through an “open” process."

    A little over one year ago the same sentiment was swirling around the OOXML/ODF dust-up.

    I don’t want to re-hash that here, but my point is that Microsoft might be here expressing a bit of the feelings other companies have expressed in the past over MSFT’s efforts.

  7. Microsoft’s Steve Martin, senior director of developer platform management at the Redmond giant, posted an inflammatory blog post last night about the creation of open standards for the cloud. In it, he touts Microsoft’s openness, proposes

  8. Microsoft’s Steven Martin has ironically blown the whistle on an attempt at an "open" coalition that freezes out certain companies. Ironic in that Microsoft and IBM played this game years ago with the WS-I, an industry standards group that pointedly ston

  9. Treova says:

    Having been around standards-based discussions many times before, I cannot help but agree with Steven’s point of view. It is pretty clear to me that Cloud Computing is going to be addressed differently by existing vendors (Microsoft, IBM, Sun and others) and emerging players (Google Apps, Salesforce, NetSuite, GoGrid, Amazon).

    Any initiative that tries to address Cloud Computing standards needs to debated openly, especially if a new set of protocols are being offered. There are simply too many disparate points of view.

    It is funny I find myself supporting Microsoft’s perspective here….does not happen very often given what we do(www.treova.com/wordpress)

  10. Timothy Brownawell says:

    @"Microsoft has enjoyed a long and productive history working with many companies regarding standardization projects"

    Yes, but has the rest of the world shared in that enjoyment (see OOXML)?

    @"We were admittedly disappointed by the lack of openness in the development of the Cloud Manifesto. What we heard was that there was no desire to discuss, much less implement, enhancements to the document despite the fact that we have learned through direct experience."

    Maybe they don’t trust you? Or if there were specific suggestions of enhancements, maybe they were seen as (perhaps intentionally?) counterproductive?

    @"It appears to us that one company, or just a few companies, would prefer to control the evolution of cloud computing, as opposed to reaching a consensus across key stakeholders (including cloud users) through an “open” process."

    Maybe, or maybe they’re trying to *avoid* such control. Or maybe they just want to avoid "death by committee" from involving everyone from the very start. But I haven’t seen this document, so it’s kinda hard to say.

    @"An open Manifesto emerging from a closed process is at least mildly ironic."

    Yep.

    @"After all, what we are really seeking are ideas that have been broadly developed, meet a test of open, logical review and reflect principles on which the broad community agrees."

    If this manifesto isn’t reasonable and doesn’t reflect generally-help principles, it probably won’t go anywhere. How the ideas come about only really matters for "Not Invented Here" or if some ******* tries to patent them.

    @"Creation of interoperability principles and any standards effort that may result should not be a vendor-dominated process. To be fair as well as relevant, they should have support from multiple providers as well as strong support from customers and other stakeholders."

    "Fair"? Is this about playing politics or about producing useful technology?

    "multiple providers … other stakeholders"? From what ruv says, the manifesto is about desired principles rather than specific technologies. Is this about making sure that those principles don’t overcome the need for (or stickyness of) anyone’s stake (ie, politics)?

  11. La toile s’est enflammée depuis Jeudi à propos d’un document à paraître ce lundi 30 mars intitulé “Open

  12. As you might expect, several of us spent most of Thursday and Friday of last week in conversation with

  13. Late last week, we watched the big names in the IT industry play their little reindeer games over a proposed Open Cloud Manifesto put forth by IBM. I have to say, it wasn’t worth it. As far as Manifestos go, this one is pretty benign. Who cares

  14. Speaking of standards – I’m thrilled to report that we will release the “M5” (Milestone 5) CTP ( C ommunity