Standards Battle Brewing in the Cloud Space?

With Microsoft and Amazon on one side and IBM and a host of others on the other side of an emerging battle over cloud standards, some ask if it is too early to try to set standards for cloud computing. Several companies working on a so-called "Open Cloud Manifesto" plan to release a copy of the document on March 30, but Microsoft and Amazon will not be among them.

The outlook is looking a bit cloudy for harmony on standards in the cloud computing space.

Several companies working on a so-called "Open Cloud Manifesto" plan to release a copy of the document on March 30. The manifesto essentially lays out standards and practices to be adhered to in the delivery of cloud computing environments.

However, in a March 26 blog post, Steven Martin, Microsoft's senior director of developer platform management, said he believes the manifesto as it stands today is biased to benefit the authors of the document more than others. Martin acknowledged that Microsoft was shown the manifesto in a closed door meeting with backers of the document, apparently in an effort to get Microsoft onboard. But, as is evident in Martin's post, Microsoft has declined.

And it appears Microsoft is not alone. On March 27, Amazon came out and basically said "no thanks" to the manifesto as well. In a statement, an Amazon spokeswoman said:

""We just recently heard about the manifesto document and like other ideas on standards and practices, we'll review this one, too. Ideas on openness and standards have been talked about for years in Web services. And, we do believe standards will continue to evolve in the cloud computing space. But, what we've heard from customers thus far, customers who are really committed to using the cloud, is that the best way to illustrate openness and customer flexibility is by what you actually provide and deliver for them. Over the past three years, we've made AWS [Amazon Web Services] available via multiple platforms, multiple programming languages and multiple operating systems - because that's what customers have told us matters the most to them. We'll continue to pursue an approach of providing customers with maximum flexibility as the standards discussion unfolds. ‪"In any event, we do believe that standards will continue to evolve and that establishing the right ones, based on a better understanding of what is needed, will best serve customers.""

Martin's post drew a stream of comment from various camps, but from the reaction of both Microsoft and Amazon, it appears that what we have here is a good old fashioned standards battle about to begin. Two heavyweights in the burgeoning cloud space have basically said thumbs down to the manifesto. Meanwhile, some observers are likening the situation to the old Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA) and the more recent Service Component Architecture (SCA) specification, both of which Microsoft distanced itself from. However, IBM supported both. With Microsoft and Amazon on one side of this manifesto, one has to wonder where Google and IBM are. Well, neither has commented, but sources say at least IBM is involved with the "Open Cloud Manifesto" and is among the largest backers.

The original list of SCA backers included IBM, BEA Systems, IONA, Oracle and SAP, among others -- two of those companies no longer exist as independent entities. The group was later joined by Sun Microsystems, Red Hat, Progress Software and others. Meanwhile, the biggest supporter of the CORBA specification has been the Object Management Group (OMG). Any and all of these organizations are likely participants in the Open Cloud Manifesto.

Said a representative from one participant who spoke with eWEEK and asked for anonymity: "We support the Manifesto and believe you've got to start somewhere. We just wanted to start with something solid to get community feedback on, as opposed to saying -hey, we should do this.'"

Reuven Cohen, chief technologist and founder of Enomaly, purports to be a co-author of the manifesto on his blog. Cohen even thanks Microsoft's Martin for bringing attention to the manifesto before its official unveiling. However, describing what the manifesto and the group behind it are trying to do, Cohen said:

""Many clouds will continue to be different in a number of important ways, providing unique value for organizations. It is not our intention to define standards for every capability in the cloud and create a single homogeneous cloud environment. Rather, as cloud computing matures to address several key principles that we believe must be followed to ensure the cloud is open and delivers the choice, flexibility and agility organizations demand. This is just one of several initiatives and announcements we will be making in the coming weeks as we move to organize the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum (CCIF) and Cloud Camp into a formalized organization.""