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The Open Cloud Initiative Promotes Open Cloud Computing

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The Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) announced at OSCON 2011 intends to bring together cloud users and vendors in order to build an ecosystem allowing users the freedom to choose their vendor and to move to another when they want to.

A group of initiative announced the Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) at OSCON 2011, a non-profit organization wanting to promote open cloud computing through open data formats and interfaces. OCI sees cloud computing as a shift from using software products to using software services, comparing it with the change from using power generators to the electrical grid that took place more than a century ago. For all the users to benefit from cloud computing, they need to be free to use whatever provider they want, and to be able to switch to another when they choose so. For that to be achievable, OCI considers that providers must use a common format for data and to allow access to the data: “There's no point having no access to transparent data and there's no point having unfettered access to opaque data — users need unfettered access to transparent data.”

OCI starts out with a set of principles:

  • Interoperability is key
  • There should be no entry or exit barriers for users
  • There should be no user discrimination based on who they are or what technology they use
  • Vendors must cooperate on creating and implementing open standards

The open standards must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Copyrights: The standard must be documented in all its details, published and both accessible and [re]usable free of charge.
  • Patents: Any patents possibly present on [parts of] the standard must be irrevocably made available on a royalty-free basis.
  • Trademarks: Any trademarks possibly present on identifier(s) must be used for non-discriminatory enforcement of compliance only.
  • Implementations: There must be multiple full, faithful and interoperable implementations (for both client and server where applicable) and at least one such implementation must be licensed under an Open Source Initiative (OSI) approved license or placed into the public domain.

It is important to note that only one of the standards implementations must be open source, but not all of them. While some critique this requirement as not placing enough emphasis on open source, it may be what it takes to attract cloud providers who are reluctant to join other initiatives such as OpenStack.

OCI is currently led by 10 directors who are forbid by the organization’s bylaws to receive any compensation except for “allowed reasonable advancement or reimbursement of expenses incurred in the performance of their regular duties". The directors are Evan Prodromou, John Mark Walker, Marc Fleischmann, Noirin Plunkett, Rick Clark, Sam Johnston (President), Sam Ramji, Shanley Kane, Simon Wardley, and Thomas Uhl . Sam Ramji is known for leading Microsoft’s open source efforts in the past. The organization has no membership yet.

A year ago, Rackspace announced the OpenStack project by open sourcing their cloud platform, an initiative joined by NASA, which contributed with Nebula Cloud Platform, and backed by initially 25 companies, their number growing later to 75. Their intent is to mobilize the community’s resources in creating a complete open source cloud computing platform to which most cloud users and vendors are willing to adhere. Unlike OCI, OpenStack did not start with an empty drawing board and a set of principles, but with Rackspace’s source code, which gave them a head start but some are reluctant joining the initiative. It is enough to mention that none of the major cloud providers has joined OpenStack during the last year. Maybe OCI will manage to attract some of these vendors, willing to participate to a large cloud ecosystem that benefits to all users. As it looks right now, every major cloud provider is in a race to build his own services without regard to interoperability except allowing customers to use external services in some cases. That must change if users are to embrace cloud computing without fearing vendor lock-in.

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