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IT user supergroup forces vendors to take notice

Open Data Center Alliance focuses on interoperability

By , Network World
November 23, 2010 12:27 PM ET

Network World - Tech vendors, be warned: The next generation user group has arrived on the scene, and this time its members will force the world's biggest IT companies to listen closely.

The recently formed Open Data Center Alliance, representing more than $50 billion in IT spending, has loaded its steering committee up with big names like Lockheed Martin, BMW, China Life, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Marriott, the National Australia Bank, Shell and UBS. Terremark, although a vendor, is chairing the steering committee. But as a builder of cloud and hosting services, Terremark is keenly interested in making sure the likes of IBM, HP, Cisco and Microsoft take notice. Chipmaker Intel is also involved with the alliance as a technical advisor. 

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As the name suggests, the Open Data Center Alliance wants to ensure interoperability across core networking and cloud technologies, especially those provided by vendors that compete against each other. Technologies and concepts on the agenda include interoperable storage protocols, unified networking, policy-based power management, trusted computing pools and compliance with security requirements, dynamic workload placement, cloud "on-boarding" and provisioning, and flexible licensing models.

The alliance plans to deliver a more detailed roadmap and define an ideal, vendor-agnostic usage model in the first quarter of 2011.

Terremark's Marvin Wheeler points to the cell phone industry as a potential model of interoperability. Although smartphones themselves are often restricted to just one of the four major carriers, Wheeler points out "If you look at the cell phone industry there are certain standards of interoperability that all the manufacturers adhere to. I could be in Miami, Fla., using Verizon as my cell carrier with a Motorola phone and send you a video clip, and you're in New York City using AT&T and a Samsung phone, and the video clip will work just fine on your phone."

This type of interoperability hasn't prevented the cell phone industry from being highly innovative, as devices like iPhones and Androids prove, Wheeler notes.

But in the data center industry and emerging cloud-hosting services, ensuring that technologies from different vendors work together and allow portability of workloads and data across different platforms is easier said than done.

Vendors are always willing to use the latest buzzwords, even if their actions don't justify the advertising. Vendors are slapping the words "green" and "cloud" on just about any product and saying "we're cloud-friendly and we're green-friendly," says Andrew Feig, executive director of the UBS technology advisory group and a member of the Open Data Center Alliance steering committee.

But tying the whole technology stack together without forcing customers to buy from just one vendor is difficult at best today, he says.

One example is power management. Vendors have introduced different implementations for controlling and monitoring the power usage of data center equipment, when what customers really need are standards and common methods of managing energy use throughout the data center and entire building infrastructure, Feig says.

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