Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum may close

A Toronto-based technology professional who helped launch the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum may shut it down following ongoing criticism and a maturation of the related products and services.

Reuven Cohen posted a message on Twitter Thursday afternoon saying he was “thinking of disbanding” the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF), which was founded about two years ago. Its stated mission is, among other things, to create “a common agreed upon framework/ontology that enables the ability of two or more cloud platforms to exchange information in a unified manner.” Cohen, who is also CEO of cloud computing vendor Enomoly, went on to say that the CCIF “doesn’t seem to serve a purpose anymore.”

In an interview with ComputerWorld Canada, Cohen said the CCIF was born at a time when there was considerable concern about the possibility of proprietary products and services hampering the adoption of cloud computing as an approach to evolving enterprise IT infrastructure.

“The consensus was, it’s too early, there wasn’t really a market,” he said. “There was Amazon, Google, Salesforce. This could have become the ultimate vendor lock-in.”

Almost exactly a year ago, the CCIF was harshly criticized in the blogosphere for a lack of progress creating standards and for failing to create a cohesive organization. This included Sam Johnson, technical program manager at Google, who blasted Cohen and the CCIF, describing the latter as “a dog’s breakfast, and there’s no evidence that there’s any light at the end of the tunnel.”

Cohen responded a few weeks later, admitting that the CCIF needed greater governance and structure. “There is not and has never been an agreed upon definition of the CCIF. As organizers we have ‘announced,’ at various
times, conflicting statements on how ‘our members’ should view this Forum,” he wrote in a post on the CCIF’s Google Group page. “These definitions range from ‘cloud advocacy group,’ which implies membership and organized offline activity, to the much narrower ‘e-mail discussion group.’ Due to our failure to better define our project, each community member has been left to his or her own devices, latching onto any number of definitions.”

The CCIF’s credibility may have been further undermined by the fact it did not sign the Open Cloud Manifesto, which also spoke to principles of interoperability.

“In some ways, that was the beginning of the end,” Cohen says now. “It really opened my eyes to the political nature of standards and interoperability. It’s not based on good intentions so much as a sort of power play. It was my naivete that I thought I could affect some kind of change.”

In an e-mail, Google’s Johnson  pointed out a list of alternatives to the CCIF, including the “Intercloud” Google Group and the Cloud Computing Google Group.
“I see this as only a temporary setback and still firmly believe in both the need for Open Cloud, and that the Intercloud, like the Internet on which it is built, will be based on open standards,” he wrote. “I will certainly be working hard to make this a reality and am already up to my neck in numerous standards initiatives (W3C’s HTML5, OGF’s OCCI, IETF’s “clouds” BoF and Christofer Hoff’s CloudAudit, to name a few). One of my predictions for 2010 is that cloud standards efforts will start to deliver results, and CCIF is by no means a critical part of that process.”

Cohen also pointed to other groups doing good work, including the Cloud Security Alliance, and suggested he may keep the CCIF going if there’s enough interest or support from the rest of the community.

“Right now it feels like me talking to an echo chamber,” he said. “I want to know whether people want this to exist.”
Info-Tech Research analyst John Sloan worried about the possibility of the CCIF coming to an end.
“This is not  good thing,” he said. “In cloud computing the business metrics that really matter are raw cost per unit of compute capacity plus value add cost per unit of capacity of managing of managing risk and service levels . . . You can’t have that kind of open cloud market if you don’t have common standards and interoperability.”

There has also been considerable movement to ensure open APIs for cloud computing, Cohen added, and groups like the ongoing CloudCamp series are continuing to draw together industry professionals to work out challenges to adoption.

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