Cloud computing standards spotlight – ISO JTC1/SC38

Cloud computing is the hot topic in ICT these days, and it is no surprise that there are numerous standardization efforts ongoing in various countries and among various vendors.  The rush to develop standards is driven by multiple factors including competition among vendors, market globalization  and stabilization, and user education.

There are many standards committees – formal international bodies such as International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a large number of industry consortia such as the Object Management Group (OMG), and national standards organizations in almost every country.

In Canada, for example, we have the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).  The US-based National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been especially influential through its early efforts to define what cloud computing is and is not.

In the ISO, standards for Information Technology are produced by Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) and, in particular, standardization for Cloud Computing is the responsibility of Subcommittee 38 (JTC1/SC38).  The scope of the work for JTC1/SC38 is:

“Standardization for interoperable Distributed Application Platforms and Services including:

  • Web Services,
  • Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), and
  • Cloud Computing”

A important meeting of JTC1/SC38 was held in September, 2013 in Kobe, Japan.   At this meeting two new standards for cloud computing were approved for balloting as Draft International Standards (or DIS’s).  This is the final round of ballots before being declared a world standard.  Member countries that participate in JTC1 will be voting, over the summer, to approve the following two new standards:

ISO/IEC DIS 17788   Information technology – Cloud Computing – Overview and Vocabulary

ISO/IEC DIS 17789   Information technology – Cloud Computing – Reference architecture

Since these standards are being developed in collaboration with the ITU, they will also be reviewed for adoption by the ITU.  Various other standards bodies are involved as liaison organizations, including DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force), OASIS, OGF (Open Grid Forum), and SNIA (Storage Networking Industry).

So, what do these standards include and why are they important?

First, these standards represent a consensus definition for the term cloud computing, as follows:

“Cloud computing is a paradigm for enabling network access to a scalable and elastic pool of shareable physical or virtual resources with self-service provisioning and administration on-demand.” (DIS17788/9)

Also included is a high level description of the major concepts and components that will allow cloud computing to be described clearly.  These include:

  • Parties, roles, sub-roles and activities;
  • Cloud service customers, partners and providers;
  • Service categories and deployment models;
  • Cross cutting activities (i.e., activities that have a wider impact than on role);
  • Functional layers, components and multi-layer functions; and
  • Various other concepts such as multi-tenancy, federated clouds, and inter-cloud interworking.

If you are interested in volunteering to help the Canadian SC38 committee, please contact the Standards Council of Canada ( and let them know you want to get involved.  The Canadian committee meets regularly, usually via teleconference and occasionally face-to-face.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Don Sheppard
Don Sheppard
I'm a IT management consultant. I began my career in railways and banks after which I took up the consulting challenge! I try to keep in touch with a lot of different I&IT topics but I'm usually working in areas that involve service management and procurement. I'm into developing ISO standards, current in the area of cloud computing (ISO JTC1/SC38). I'm also starting to get more interested in networking history, so I guess I'm starting to look backwards as well as forwards! My homepage is but I am found more here.

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