TIBURON, Calif.—Imagine a shopping trip without some basic product standards. You go to a store such as Walmart to buy a table lamp to brighten a dark corner in your home.
But before you can plug the lamp into the wall, you must first purchase the proper power plug, then strip the ends of the power cord, wrap the bared ends around the proper terminals on the plug and then plug it into a power outlet in the wall. But before you can actually switch on that lamp, you must also purchase a light bulb and possibly even manually wire it into the lamp.
There was a time early in the days of electric services when you had to do that if you wanted a lamp for your home or office. Fortunately, standard plugs and receptacles were developed a century or so ago, and in most cases, products that met those standards were available.
But even today, there’s not really a set of global standards for a wide range of electrical devices, as you’ve certainly found if you’ve tried to use your cell phone charger in the United States and Europe where plug types and voltages still differ.
I was talking with Angus Robertson about such standards during a lunch break at the 2015 Cloud Innovation Summit held here on April 24. Robertson is co-chair of the marketing committee of Open Cloud Connect, an industry alliance that’s trying to do for cloud services what a standard plug did for electrical appliances.
Robertson observed that each time a company wants to change to a different cloud service or even use an additional service, it can take a significant amount of time and effort just to be able to make the connection. He said that it’s essentially a manual process. “Changing from one cloud service to another can take months,” Robertson said.
What Open Cloud Connect wants to do is make the whole thing automatic so that the costs are reduced or eliminated so that enterprises can connect to a cloud service quickly and easily. “Our ultimate vision is that there will be services that carriers can offer that make connecting quick and easy,” he said. “Or they can go on to a portal and provision it themselves.”
To accomplish this goal, the OCC group has published an open cloud reference architecture that represents a cloud ecosystem and its constituent service providers and enterprise software. “In this reference architecture, we’ve laid out where all these different interfaces are and standard terminology and naming,” Robertson said.
Open Cloud Connect Promotes Standards to Spur Cloud Computing Growth
OCC is creating naming standards as well as other standard terminology for layers, interface points, etc., he said.
The idea, Robertson said, is to use DevOps or Agile development philosophy in building the standards, including a lab that’s permanently set up for testing different use cases developed by members.
“We’re going through the first four use cases now,” Robertson said. The idea is to create new use cases on a 6- to 9-month release schedule. The first four use cases for the Open Cloud Connect standard are secured and managed cloud services, real-time communications as a service, dynamic end-to-end connectivity, and virtual machine mobility and redundancy.
“We plan to release our first interface and service standard in the November 2015 timeframe to align with the Gen15 Conference,” Robertson said. The Global Ethernet Networking conference will be held at Dallas in mid-November 2015.
What makes OCC unusual when compared with other standards bodies is that it’s happening even as cloud computing is still in its early stages. While there are already plenty of cloud services out there, the cloud is not yet as pervasive as it will become.
But what the OCC group plans to do is avoid the months or years of dead ends and unworkable standards that characterized other areas of enterprise IT development. Anyone who remembers the network wars and their years of competing standards for network technology will recognize the difference.
The network wars were different as companies first tried one thing and then another, only to find that valuable time and even more valuable money was wasted with little to show for it. Even the standard that eventually won, Ethernet, went through its own internal standards battles.
This meant that a decade of development was lost, delaying the adoption of network technology around the world, and in this business, a decade might as well be forever.
This idea of setting the standards to enable cloud computing to reach its full potential is a huge long-term benefit for any company that will eventually use cloud services of any sort. Access to cloud assets will become easier and faster to accomplish, and enterprises can focus on creating the best use of their data rather than battling over details of implementation.
While it’s too early to tell whether these standards will be the catalyst that makes cloud computing ubiquitous and a natural choice for all enterprises, it’s a sure bet that the lack of standards will ensure that, for years to come, cloud computing adoption will be more costly and labor-intensive than it has to be.