Welcome to My Cloud: Making Interoperability Work for the Intercloud

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“There are a lot of choices in how you construct a cloud,” says David Bernstein of IEEE. Some of it depends on what you intend to do with it—a high-performance computing cloud will be different in speed and robustness from a general hosting cloud, or an inexpensive backup and storage cloud. For now, that means clouds are constructed for their own particular purposes, with little thought of how they’ll interact. But for Bernstein, they’re following a well-worn path that inevitably leads to greater interoperability. “It’s a lot like the internet itself,” he says. “We started with all these providers who were closed worlds, like Compuserve and AOL, and over time they learned to open up and interact with each other through things like email, and that’s what made the internet.”

Except it didn’t just happen; email was able to forge connections between providers because standards were created which made those connections workable. And that’s what Bernstein sees beginning to happen in cloud computing— the creation of what they’re calling the Intercloud, much of it through the standards process at IEEE.

While many aspects of cloud computing such as security governance and compliance were already covered by existing trade associations, members of IEEE began looking for gaps where IEEE’s long history with standards could be beneficial. Groups have begun working under the IEEE P2300 series designation on Intercloud Interoperability, and the first two standards are now under way:

  • IEEE P2301™, Guide for Cloud Portability and Interoperability Profiles (CPIP), will establish a collection of profiles to put standards in categories “so people can make sense of them,” Bernstein says.
  • IEEE P2302™, Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation (SIIF), takes this a step further by defining topology, functions, and governance for cloud-to-cloud interoperability and federation.

The analogy to how the internet learned to establish common ground and interoperability is not merely a figure of speech. The working group has taken inspiration from how the internet progressed and seeks to make history repeat itself where it can. As Bernstein puts it, “when you look at interoperability, the public internet structure, governance—it works. It’s been an incredible success that’s changed our lives.” The goal is to make it possible for it to happen again, with cloud computing.

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