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Public & private sector orgs work on interoperability standards for cloud

Two cloud computing groups are coming together to create industry standards for managing cloud computing environments. The Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) and the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) are joining forces to focus on interoperability and simplified cloud management. The partnership is working to create interoperable management of virtual machines spread across several data centers. Many state governments are looking at adopting efficient cloud solutions and consolidating data centers as a means of saving money, but the lack of interoperability can be challenging.

The Open Data Center Alliance is a group of 300+ companies and recently published the first customer driven requirements for the cloud with release of its initial usage models. The DMTF is a global industry organization focused on promoting and creating interoperability standards for all IT systems.

The collaboration aims to simplify the migration to a cloud based workflow by enabling more transparent management of all virtual machines through a single view. Typically, these management systems involve 60% of the IT overhead of a physical server. The collaboration is working to integrate performance, security, and financials across federated cloud environments.

The partnership is expected to work on enhancements to the DMTF OVF specification, which was recently adopted as an international standard by several international technology groups. The partnership will also investigate industry standard approaches to software licensing within cloud environments. The collaboration comes on the heels of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) release of the first draft of its roadmap for getting federal agencies on to the cloud. The plan, which totals three volumes will address the full scope of migration including interoperability standards and data center management.

The federal government is expected to spend at least $20 billion on cloud implementation plans as part of its $80 billion IT spend and is working to establish standards that can be replicated across agencies. A new forum SafeGov.org is also available to provide insights into best practices emerging out of this migration. As with other initiatives, best practices emerging out of the federal migration may serve as a roadmap for state governments considering similar IT upgrade and consolidation plans.

The move toward standards may be a welcome change for state and municipal governments examining or already involved in cloud migrations. Some cloud migrations have already resulted in high profile failures such as Los Angeles’ attempt to move to the cloud. Computer Sciences Corp. and Google were awarded a five-year, $7.2 million contract with the city to construct a cloud-based email system for all municipal workers but significant deployment delays due to security concerns resulted in thousands of dollars in reimbursements and Google picking up the tab to keep police on a more secure email platform. Creating standards may offset similar problems in the future.

The focus on interoperability standards may also ease state concerns when merging systems with the federal government. Recently, the Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service started testing a cloud service that would give federal law enforcement officials access to the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS), the same inter-jurisdictional police data that state and local police departments have when making arrests or looking up vehicle registrations. States had been reluctant to offer access to this network, citing security concerns, but new cloud services applications may provide the way to streamline this process and maintain security.

The federal government is pursing a “cloud first,” IT strategy which will continue to push integrations at all levels of government to the forefront. Collaborations like that between ODCA and DMTF working in concert with requirements planning like that outlined in the NIST plan will be necessary to address security and integration challenges resulting from consolidation.

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