Opening Clouds

Where is your cloud and how do you manage it?

I toss that question at an occasional CIO and get borderline lucid answers. Most don’t yet use clouds but lust after them. Others leverage public clouds for non-privileged and mission-uncritical work. A scant few have cobbled together their own private clouds (p-clouds).

P-clouds and rentable clouds are as similar to Sherman tanks and kangaroos.

The promise of agile clouds is that you would be able to establish your own internal p-cloud and extended it ad hoc to external, rented cloud resources. Currently this requires either a significant amount of home grown engineering or adherence to one or another public clouds tools and management protocols.

Either approach is anathema to IT.

All radical growth spurts in IT technologies have occurred when open standards were popularized. UNIX killed MPE, VMS and other also-rans. Likewise Linux is slowly killing proprietary UNIX and blocking Windows Server growth. TCP/IP and Berkeley Sockets killed Netware, Vines and a slate of sluggish competitors. x32 and x64 chips have all but eliminated SPARC, Itanium and other red-headed step children.

Standards make stuff happen because it invites commoditization and interoperability, the top two CIO wet dreams.

It is unsurprising then that a number of the smarter industry players are pushing standards for cloud computing. When a document titled the “Open Could Manifesto” is singed by IBM, Sun, VMware, Cisco, EMC, SAP, Advanced Micro Devices, Elastra, Akamai, Novell, Rackspace, RightScale and GoGrid, you see that standards are as important to vendors as well as their customers.

Oddly, HP and Microsoft are not on the list of signatories.

Microsoft’s absence is understandable, as is Amazon. Ballmer’s bezerkers have launched Azure. In their effort to own everything, Microsoft wants no part of plans that commoditize clouds. Amazon is as an understandable absentee too. Having popularized clouds they do not wish to diminish their lead in the industry.

HP however is puzzlement. The manifesto asks vendors to “ensure that the challenges to cloud adoption (security, integration, portability, interoperability, governance/management, metering/monitoring) are addressed through open standards.” HP has made good profit from standards be they PCs, servers or the network management protocols that feed their still wildly popular Openview suite. Perhaps HP was excluded from the manifesto group as IBM/Sun merger talks were in progress. Nothing marginalizes a competitor quite like excluding them from a standards group.

In their trashing of the manifesto, Microsoft marginalized itself.

The bugga in the boo is that the manifesto is nothing more than a declaration of desire – a love letter to the market. It sets forth high-level principles for cloud vendors to adopt and little else. It is a more threat than action – a way to get competing vendors to either commit to open interoperability or appear to the public as old-school lock-in tech companies (hence Microsoft’s absence). Like other religions, it articulates noble goals through pretty words.

The beheadings come later.

The Open Cloud Manifesto web site is sparse – more of a staging ground for discussion than a hotbed of action. Without action, without translation of high minded desires into concrete cloud interoperability, it stands as nothing more than a wiki of wonder. Let’s hope that IBM buys Sun and repurposes it as the leader in open cloud technology, using the Open Cloud Manifesto organization as engineering epicenter to the next wave of IT infrastructure.

Finally, a good use for Sun.