The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) has launched a new open standards initiative that aims to enhance the portability of cloud applications and services. Dubbed the Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) Technical Committee, the group includes all the usual cloud computing players.
TOSCA's stated goal is to advance an interoperability standard that will make it easier to deploy cloud applications without vendor lock-in, while maintaining application requirements for security, governance, and compliance. TOSCA is also working to make it possible for higher-level operational behavior to be associated with cloud infrastructure management.
"Do vendors band together and realize that developing support for some specific standards is not only good for end users but it's good for the vendors themselves? Or do they continue along a more proprietary path that is good for particular vendors but narrows the range of choices and opportunities for the end user?" asked Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "The initiative has an impressive list of supporters. These are all companies that are deeply invested in cloud. There are a couple of major exceptions: Microsoft and Amazon."
Making Cloud Connections
Indeed, the committee seems timely. IDC's research shows cloud initiatives are top priorities for many enterprise IT teams. Mary Johnston Turner, vice president of Enterprise Systems Management Software at IDC Research, suggests a disconnect between the goal of cloud programs -- to reduce costs and improve business agility by creating highly flexible IT environments that can quickly respond to changing business priorities -- and reality.
"Most cloud implementations have been unable to easily migrate applications across heterogeneous public and private infrastructure resources," Turner said, noting that TOSCA's aim is to enable broad cloud portability. "This is a critical missing link for customers that want to take full advantage of hybrid cloud architectures and the full range of available cloud services."
Capgemini, CA Technologies, Cisco, Citrix, EMC, IBM, NetApp, PwC, Red Hat, SAP AG, Software AG, Virtunomic, and WSO2 drafted the initial draft specification. Now, the specification will be contributed to the OASIS TOSCA Technical Committee for further development and advancement within the open standards process.
"This effort is about helping organizations to extend their business leveraging model-driven Cloud Service Management -- using open standards -- to get the greatest benefits from cloud," said Gerd Breiter, an IBM distinguished engineer. "TOSCA enables standardized development, deployment and management of cloud services across development, test, acceptance and production environments hosted on a single cloud or multiple clouds."
History of Standards
King noted an interesting example of the benefits of industry standards outside the IT world -- in the 19th century. A group of manufacturers banded together to standardize the size and number of threats on nuts, bolts, and screws. Until then, consumers had to return to a specific vendor to replace a lost bolt or screw.
"There was initial resistance from some manufacturers, but eventually they found that by standardizing on fastener sizes and shapes, they were able to cut production costs significantly," King said. "There's a similar sort of thing going on here. There is so much riding on the cloud right now, so let's hope the OASIS effort has a better ending than some other standards initiatives."