Interoperability forum pulls out of cloud manifesto

The Open Cloud Manifesto was officially unveiled today with the support of a long list of top tier and startup tech companies. But, ironically, support for the document calling for the creation of an open and interoperable cloud computing platform was dropped by Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF).

Read the manifesto: Open Cloud Manifesto

The six-page document, the existence of which was initially leaked and slammed by a Microsoft blog post last Thursday, calls on vendors to “ensure that the challenges to cloud adoption (security, integration, portability, interoperability, governance/management, metering/monitoring) are addressed through open standards.”

Among the companies that appeared as signatories to the manifesto were Akamai Technologies Inc., a Web application company; Elastra Corp., a San Francisco-based cloud computing firm; GoGrid Cloud Hosting, a ServePath LLC service; IBM Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., VMWare Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., EMC Corp., SAP AG, Advance Micro Devices Inc., Novell Inc. and other tech companies.

Not on the list of signatories were: Microsoft Corp., which has its own Azure cloud computing platform; Amazon.com Inc., known for its Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) service; and Google Inc.

On Monday, Reuven Cohen, founder and chief technologist of Enomaly Inc., a Toronto-based cloud computing start up, CCIF member and one of the leading proponents of the manifesto, told IT World Canada that the CCIF has pulled its support for the document.

“Perhaps the biggest news today is that, ironically, the CCIF did not endorse it,” Cohen said.

“I personally remain committed to the contents of the manifesto, but the CCIF’s name will not appear as a signatory,” he said.

He said members of the interoperability group had misgivings over the manifesto authors’ failure to seek the consensus of the group before releasing the document. “The objection was not with the contents of the document but the way it came together,” Cohen said.

In his blog Elastic Vapor, Cohen explained further: “The decision comes with a great pain as we fully endorse the document contents and its principles of a truly open cloud. However, this community has issued a mandate of openness and fair process, loudly and clearly, and so the CCIF can not in good faith endorse this document.

“Knowing what we know now, we certainly would have lobbied harder to open the document to the forum before this uproar ensued.”

Cohen said although he realizes the need for greater openness in drafting the document, his hands were tied by industry conventions.

“I don’t make the industry rules. I just follow them. And a lot of discussion with some companies had to happen behind closed doors or nothing would happen,” he said.

He said the document created such a buzz because it brought up “fundamental struggles in the industry.”

“We’re in an era now where technology is moving from desktop-based to Internet-centric. Tomorrow you may never need a server or sell software. There’s a struggle within companies to determine where they fit in all this,” he explained.

He repeated that the manifesto was never about defining the final taxonomy of cloud computing, or to charter new industry standards but rather to initiate conversation on the emerging cloud computing community.

The manifesto states that vendors “must not use their market position to lock customers into their particular platforms,” should use existing standards whenever possible, must be careful about creating new standards or modifying existing ones, focus on customer needs versus “the technical needs of cloud vendors,” and that the various cloud-computing groups, communities and projects should try to work in harmony.

The advance publicity may end up raising the document’s profile, said Bob Sutor, vice president of open source and Linux at IBM.

“If anything maybe it will cause people to go, ‘What is this thing?’ and they can read it and decide for themselves,” Sutor said.

The document is “not just hype,” he added. “In the future, customers are going to use multiple cloud providers but their data is going to have to be portable. Customers are not going to be willing to be locked in.”

Third-party observers had temperate reactions to the manifesto.

The document itself “is aspirational, but real stuff in the right direction,” said Redmonk analyst Stephen O’Grady. “You can wait until a couple years down the line when everyone’s invested and everyone’s locked in or you can try to tackle some of the problems now.”

Concerns about interoperability and lock-in are even more pressing in the cloud-computing world than they are in traditional in-house IT, O’Grady said.

While customers would traditionally choose hardware, operating systems, databases and development tools separately, cloud platforms tend to bundle those elements together, often using proprietary components, he said.

“When you conflate a lot of these pieces you remove a lot of choices. Customers have issues with that,” O’Grady said. “Vendors have to be very sensitive to the issue of lock-in here because they’ve already removed so many choices.”

— With files from Chris Kanaracus