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Forecast: Additional cloud standards are on the horizon

You and other experts say a lack of widely accepted cloud standards is among the biggest challenges in the cloud computing marketplace. Can we expect standardization anytime soon?

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There is a lot of effort right now to put cloud standards in place. There are a lot of existing and emerging industry standards identifying the need for certain specifications and drafts of various tests and standards are being put forth. That tends to happen with any major IT trend, especially one as technical as cloud computing. It's really a matter of throwing the spaghetti against the wall and seeing what ends up sticking.

The more we successfully standardize cloud computing, the more significant and relevant and important it will become -- and the more longevity it will have.

As noble as many of these efforts are, those that will count in the end will be those that are adopted by the industry and the community. With other types of efforts, a lot of excellent standards were put in place, but for whatever reason, they were not adopted.

In some cases, that was because they were considered too burdensome or complex. In other cases, vendors disliked certain standards because their requirements didn't support how their products were designed or the direction their products were headed. If only a subset of primary vendors participated in the development of a standard, then it's expected that only a subset of the commercial community will adopt it, making it difficult to predict its success.

Hopefully, cloud standards will have a reasonable amount of success because they will only improve our ability to take advantage of the technology innovation that cloud computing has brought about.

The longer we remain in the non-standardized computing world, the longer the challenges and risks will remain areas of concern, and the longer they will inhibit adoption. The more we successfully standardize cloud computing, the more significant, relevant and important it will become, and the more longevity it will have. It's something that can infiltrate just about any area of IT and therefore be relevant for decades.

But if there is no progress with regards to standardization, then that could cut cloud computing's evolution short. That would be unfortunate, because the models and innovation that are there can make a difference and really propel organizations ahead of what we have traditionally been working with.

There is one standard that has been highly adopted, although I don't want to say universally. The most successful standard so far has been the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cloud architecture reference model. I'm often in close contact with NIST regarding changes and updates that are coming to that model. It's something we map to as part of our cloud computing textbook and our curriculum in order to make sure people understand how this model relates to others.

The NIST model establishes some foundations, but it certainly doesn't address the majority of the challenges that are still in the industry. It's something I'm hoping we will have more clarity about over the next 12 to 18 months in terms of what additional cloud standards become de facto standards.

About the author:
Thomas Erl is CEO of Arcitura Education Inc., an IT training/certification company, and co-author of
Cloud Computing: Concepts, Technology & Architecture (Prentice Hall, 2013).

This was first published in September 2013

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