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The IEEE's Cloud Computing Initiative: Chair Steve Diamond explains its aims

Nick Hardiman interviewed Steve Diamond, Chair of the IEEE Cloud Computing Initiative to find out more about its goals for creating a cloud standard.

In my last post, I shared an overview of the issues involved in creating standards for cloud computing and briefly described the role of IEEE in shaping that evolving standard. I recently had the opportunity to speak to Steve Diamond, the man at the helm of the CCI (Cloud Computing Initiative). The CCI was set up to apply the assets of the IEEE to the cloud in the same spirit as the Smart Grid Initiative was set up for electricity.

Steve's day job is general manager of the Industry Standards Office of the EMC Corporation. They are very understanding about his work at the IEEE for which he has been an active volunteer for 30 years. In that time, he has been a member of the board of directors, president of the Computer Society, and is now chair of the CCI. Perhaps, Steve does not know the meaning of the word vacation, or he thinks sleep is for the weak; in any case, he was willing to share some details about what the CCI hopes to accomplish, how it is structured, and what the next steps are.

The IEEE CCI

The CCI is an accelerator. The IEEE decided to create an initiative, to bring together resources from across the organization to help the emerging world of cloud computing. Being set up as an initiative helps with practical tasks, such as speeding up the new publication approval process. An initiative like this one lasts for years, but not forever -- eventually, the work will return to the permanent societies in the IEEE.

No one society within the IEEE could own the cloud work because it is too broad a field. For instance, the CCI is not just a Computer Society initiative: it needs work from these societies and more:

There's also work for Educational Activities, Publications, Membership and Geographic Activities, and the Standards Association.

So what does the CCI not do? It's not about telling Eucalyptus where to take their product, or telling OpenStack developers what features they need. It does not have the same focus on legal advocacy like the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) does, on an open software movement like the FSF (Free Software Foundation) does, or on copyright like the CC (Creative Commons) does.

The next few years for the CCI

The CCI was formed with a six-year plan. There's a lot of detail in the first three years, which will get regularly reviewed.

The CCI does a lot of coordination in the early days and later recedes into the background. In the early days of PCs and the Internet, those technologies were front page news. Now PCs and the Internet are just another part of the expected infrastructure of the world. Many CCI activities will devolve back into societies as the cloud, too, becomes part of the infrastructure we expect, but no longer think about.

Steve Diamond was at Cisco at the beginning of the cloud computing wave and was directly involved. During his time at Cisco, he built the largest Eucalyptus cloud in the world. As you can imagine, having built the biggest installation in the world, Steve had a lot of feedback for the Eucalyptus technical lead, Rich Wolski.

Steve wants to apply the lessons learnt from being at the forefront of those earlier shifts in technology to the CCI.

Six tracks of the CCI

Once you have made a decision to advance cloud computing for the good of humanity, how do you act on your decision? Diamond created six tracks for the CCI. Each track is led by an IEEE senior volunteer, and sometimes a staffer.

  1. Conferences
  2. Education
  3. Publications
  4. Standards
  5. Test bed
  6. Web portal, marketing, and public relations

Below are each of the tracks broken down:

1. The CCI conference track

CCI conferences are not for the general public. The latest diamante-encrusted phone will not be unveiled in the Palazzo Ballroom. They are for technical audiences: authors writing peer reviewed content, researchers testing applications and protocols, industry employees building carrier services, and CIOs thinking about deployments.

The CCI identified a number of conferences that needed spinning up, such as cloud computing conferences for emerging markets. They built on two existing IEEE cloud conferences -- Cloud 2010 and Cloudcom2010.

2. The CCI education track

The IEEE want to make educational resources available via the web portal, in the publications, in the conferences and, basically, wherever it will get used.

3. The CCI publications track

There are three publications planned.

  • IEEE Transactions on Cloud Computing. This is aimed at a technical audience. I imagine these magazines will be light on jokes and heavy on cross-checked facts.
  • IEEE Cloud Computing Magazine. This will have a broad scope, like Computer magazine.
  • Cloud Computing Letters

The CCI Transactions and Magazine will appear in 2013. The CCI are assembling the editorial boards, reviewers and contributors.

4. The CCI standards track

The IEEE establishes technical standards that apply worldwide and form the foundations of entire industries. Their cloud work includes early standard development: the P2302 Intercloud Interoperability standard. Steve Diamond is chair of the IEEE CCI standard committee, but not the working groups which build the standards, which are chaired by David Bernstein.

Interoperability is on researchers' minds because the benefit of the Internet has little to do with individual servers. The enormous benefit of the Internet comes from the interaction of a billion servers (Metcalfe's Law summarizes the benefits of bigger networks).

This isn't the only interoperability work out there. OGF's OCCI (Open Cloud Computing Interface) is a set of tools for working with different cloud vendors' APIs. DMTF's OVF (Open Virtualization Format) describes how a virtual machine gets stored in files (anyone who has used VirtualBox has used OVF). NIST's definition of cloud computing is used by government departments.

5. The CCI test bed track

The test bed is a collective label for the technology used by the CCI. It is not a huge quantity of products like VMware, OpenStack and Xen bolted together like you might find in a university lab. Instead, it takes an interesting approach.

  • The CCI does not own any bricks and mortar.
  • The CCI make arrangements with universities, companies and other test beds to use their technology.
  • All these resources from all over the world are interconnected via the Internet.

This has a number of advantages as a unifying track for all the other the CCI tracks, and especially to the P2302 group. The test bed is a heterogenous environment, geographically dispersed, that will be held together by the new protocols being developed by the standards track. The working group get to test their protocols, the conferences get a demo platform, and the test bed can also act as an education tool.

6. The CCI web portal, marketing, and public relations track

The focus of the portal is both internal and external.

  • Internally, it provides a co-ordination point for the work of all the volunteers, staff and members spread across the IEEE.
  • Externally, the portal provides a source of authoritative , unbiased content for the general public. Unbiased being the reassuring word here, in the land of vendor cloudwash.

Even a passer-by who is vaguely interested in what Cloud computing is should be able to find educational resources that works for him.

Opportunities for you

There are lots of opportunities in these six tracks for Universities, industry partners and individuals. The magazines need writers, the conferences need papers submitted, standards development needs participation, and the portal needs feedback.

About

Nick Hardiman builds and maintains the infrastructure required to run Internet services. Nick deals with the lower layers of the Internet - the machines, networks, operating systems, and applications. Nick's job stops there, and he hands over to the ...

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