Once-secret 'cloud manifesto' sees light of day

The document pushing cooperative clouds is officially released after Microsoft spills the beans

The much-discussed "Open Cloud Manifesto," signed by dozens of vendors in support of cloud-computing interoperability, was officially released on Monday following several days of discussion in the tech media and the blogosphere last week.

The six-page document -- the existence of which was leaked early by a Microsoft blog post on Thursday - includes six principles.

The first asks that cloud vendors "ensure that the challenges to cloud adoption (security, integration, portability, interoperability, governance/management, metering/monitoring) are addressed through open standards."

Other principles say that vendors "must not use their market position to lock customers into their particular platforms"; should use existing standards whenever possible; be careful about creating new standards or modifying existing ones; focus on customer needs versus "the technical needs of cloud vendors"; and that various cloud-computing groups, communities and projects should try to work in harmony.

Participating vendors include IBM, Sun Microsystems, VMware, Cisco, EMC, SAP, Advanced Micro Devices, Elastra, Akamai, Novell, Rackspace, RightScale, GoGrid and a number of others.

But key omissions from the participant list include Amazon -- known for its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service -- Google and Microsoft, which recently launched the Azure cloud platform.

An Amazon spokeswoman issued a statement saying the vendor only recently learned of the manifesto and "like other ideas on standards and practices, we'll review this one, too."

Last Thursday, Microsoft official Steven Martin trashed the manifesto on his official blog, saying it is flawed and was developed in secret.

Microsoft believes such a document should be developed through a process such as a wiki, allowing for public input and debate, Martin said. His post also spilled the beans on the manifesto's imminent release Monday.

And a group that had originally signed onto the manifesto, the Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum, has decided to remove its name from it, according to a forum postSunday.

"This decision comes with great pain as we fully endorse the document's contents and its principles of a truly open cloud. However, this community has issued a mandate of openness and fair process, loudly and clearly, and so the CCIF can not in good faith endorse this document," group organizers wrote.

Meanwhile, in promoting the manifesto's release to the media last week, IBM had listed Google as a signatory. But Google subsequently dropped off the list for reasons that are unclear.

"While we are not a party to the manifesto ... we continue to be open to interoperability with all vendors and any data," Google said in a statement.

However, all the advance publicity may end up raising the document's profile, said Bob Sutor, vice president of open source and Linux at IBM.

"If anything maybe it will cause people to go, 'What is this thing?' and they can read it and decide for themselves," Sutor said.

The document is "not just hype," he added. "In the future, customers are going to use multiple cloud providers but their data is going to have to be portable. Customers are not going to be willing to be locked in."

Cloud-computing vendors should "differentiate by the quality of your implementation, quality of your service," he said.

Third-party observers had temperate reactions to the manifesto.

The document itself "is aspirational, but real stuff in the right direction," said Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady. "You can wait until a couple years down the line when everyone's invested and everyone's locked in or you can try to tackle some of the problems now."

Concerns about interoperability and lock-in are even more pressing in the cloud-computing world than they are in traditional in-house IT, O'Grady said.

While customers would traditionally choose hardware, operating systems, databases and development tools separately, cloud platforms tend to bundle those elements together, often using proprietary components, he said.

"When you conflate a lot of these pieces you remove a lot of choices. Customers have issues with that," O'Grady said. "Vendors have to be very sensitive to the issue of lock-in here because they've already removed so many choices."

At the least, the manifesto puts the vendors involved on record as being supportive of openness and interoperability, said John Willis, an analyst and blogger who tracks cloud computing.

"If these guys are going to sign their names to these principles, then [bloggers and the media] will have every right to call them out three months, or six months, or a year from now," he said. "They just put themselves up to a higher standard. It's a little bit of [their] credibility on the line."

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