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Vordel's XML Gateway is designed to link single applications to multiple cloud services and provide the single-sign on capability mentioned by O'Neill, all without requiring onerous work on the part of developers.
While Vordel's offering is likely useful for many types of customers, O'Neill says his company hasn't tackled the challenge of trying to move applications from one cloud to another, saying "generally that's an unsolved problem across the board."
But there is room for optimism, says Robert Grossman, chairman of the newly formed Open Cloud Consortium and director of the Laboratory for Advanced Computing (LAC) and the National Center for Data Mining (NCDM) at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Grossman says enterprises with private clouds should be able to obtain extra computing resources from any public cloud without changing the API. Even today, the open source Eucalyptus private cloud software is largely compatible with the Amazon API, making it easy to get excess capacity from the Amazon cloud, Grossman says. "If I use Eucalyptus in-house and engineer the application correctly, I can get surge capacity form Amazon," he says.
Moving workloads from one public cloud to another is more difficult because that requires standardized management tools, he says. Exchanging data between clouds is another problem. Just as TCP allows the bridging of two networks, Grossman says he'd like to see an inter-cloud protocol allowing multiple clouds to exchange information.
"People are still trying to their hands around some of the issues," Grossman says. "What we have is a very young, very vibrant, rapidly moving industry that is still sort of sorting itself out," Grossman says. "I think things are trending in the right direction."
Read more about cloud computing in Network World's Cloud Computing section.