[UPDATE - Good news: looks like someone at Microsoft is hearing the same things from users that we're hearing. On Monday early a.m., Steve Martin posted that Microsoft was, after all, going to meet with the Open Cloud Manifesto group later that day.]
On Monday, 30+ IT vendors announced the creation of the “Open Cloud Manifesto” group, with a declared intent to “initiate a conversation that will bring together the emerging cloud computing community (both cloud users and cloud providers) around a core set of principles. We believe that these core principles are rooted in the belief that cloud computing should be as open as all other IT technologies.”
Much has been made about the fact that IBM and the rest of this group were not able to convince key Cloud players – particularly Amazon, Google, Salesforce.com and Microsoft – to join in. One obvious reason: these companies are all rivals for a strategic control point in the cloud: the application platform. (To me, the interesting exception was SAP, which is among those competing at the application platform level in the cloud, but still signed on to the IBM-led Manifesto.)
Yes, this kind of IT vendor rivalry is as old as the IT industry. But anyone who’s listening to customers today (including – importantly – those not yet leveraging the cloud), knows that driving more agreement around cloud service interoperability and data portability is going to be a very important element in moving cloud computing “across the chasm“. Many users I’ve been talking with about the Cloud are very excited about the model, but many are also worried that they may be walking into a whole new round of vendor lock-in as they start taking advantage of cloud services.
In fact, just last week – right after I gave a speech about Cloud Computing at IDC’s Innovation Forum in Milan – there was a panel discussion about cloud computing, and the issue of interoperability among cloud players’ offerings was the very first thing that came up. Gianluigi Castelli, IT Director for Eni S.p.A., the $100B-plus energy giant, was asked if cloud computing was something he was considering. He said that Eni was thinking over how and when they would use cloud services. He noted that he was under significant pressure to cut his budget, and presumably cloud computing would have some strong appeal for that reason alone. But he went on to say (my paraphrase): “We need to see some standards… interoperability is a pre-condition we need to see in this area. And I have some doubts about whether the vendors will succeed in doing that.”
Given that Gianluigi, and – according to our research – many other CIOs, consider standards a pre-condition for their adoption of IT cloud services, let’s hope his pessimistic assessment of vendors’ ability to deliver those standards is wrong.