New initiative aims to certify open clouds

The Open Cloud Initiative is asking for comments on its Open Cloud Principles

After forming in 2009 and stalling a couple of times since, the Open Cloud Initiative formally launched on Tuesday in an effort to encourage the adoption of open cloud principles.

The Open Cloud Initiative plans to provide a set of principles that define what makes a cloud truly open, said Sam Ramji, vice president of strategy at Apigee and a board member of the OCI. It has already released a draft of what it calls the Open Cloud Principles and has begun a 30-day period for comments on it.

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The initiative is different from other existing efforts at building open clouds, Ramji said. "We're different but complimentary to something like OpenStack, which is a pure tech play that is measured in terms of software and lines of code," he said. "OCI operates at a higher level. It's a set of policies."

The group is agnostic with regard to technology and business models, so services that are certified compliant with the principles could be open source, proprietary, commercial or not commercial, he said.

One example of the types of functions for which the OCI plans to set parameters is the ease of moving data into and out of a service. Some service providers make it very easy for customers to upload massive amounts of data into a cloud storage environment, but then they impose a rate limit on removing data that would make it very difficult for the user to transfer it into another service, he said. "These are barriers to entry and exit," he said.

He also set the OCI apart from the Open Cloud Manifesto, a controversial document that a handful of companies issued in 2009. "The manifesto was an affiliation of vendors trying to use the term 'open' to their advantage without defining what it is, except by saying they were open and [excluding] some well-known vendors in the process," he said.

A long list of companies has signed on to the Open Cloud Manifesto, including IBM, Sybase, Heroku and Hewlett-Packard, but others such as Microsoft and Amazon are notably absent. Microsoft has expressed displeasure at being excluded from development of the document.

Another distinctive thing about the OCI is that it is designed to be a community initiative. "This is individuals acting without any vendor input on behalf of the community," Ramji said.

Once the group has settled on its principles, it will start certifying services as compliant. That will involve testing a service by entering data, removing it and using the available APIs (application programming interfaces) to access the data. Initially, that process will be done on a volunteer basis by members of the community. However, Ramji said some "fairly large providers" have expressed interest in the initiative, so the group hopes eventually to obtain funding to build a more formal, full-time certification process.

After its founding in 2009, the OCI stalled twice because its founder, Sam Johnston, changed jobs. Johnston is now director of cloud and IT services at Equinix. But board members think the time is right for the initiative to get going. "We're at a tipping point where cloud adoption is growing much faster and people are adding more data to cloud services than we saw in the early days, so this is a critical moment for something like this to be formalized," said Shanley Kane, head of developer relations at Apigee and an OCI board member.

Still, the group may meet with some resistance from longtime cloud service providers. "Someone needs to remind me why we need another cloud standards org? What's different this time? Why should we care?" Reuven Cohen, founder of cloud provider Enomaly, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday in reference to OCI's launch. Cohen was one of the authors of the Open Cloud Manifesto.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is

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