The cloud has a reputation as a place of freedom. Little or no commitment, on demand service, and low to moderate costs for end users are its hallmark. Although, there’s a lot of complexity lurking in the cloud, and that fact has a number of groups working to develop standards that can help make the cloud more predictable, secure, and flexible.
For instance, the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI), largely a product of the Storage Network Industry Association’s (SNIA) Cloud Storage Technical Work Group, aims to let users tag their data with standardized metadata. Why? The goal is to let cloud providers know which specific data services to assign for that data. For example, should the data be encrypted, backed up or archived? The CDMI may also make it easier to transport data from one cloud to another, with little or no need to recode in order to match different interfaces.
With CDMI, you can store and retrieve data objects in the cloud by means of an object storage interface that uses RESTful principles. So, rather than relying just on HTTP and your browser on the web, you can further organize data objects into “containers.” Moreover, CDMI provides controls for managing data and data services in the cloud.
Another standards effort – focused more on business issues – is percolating at the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA). The organization, which is focused on the future of cloud computing, is working on the development of standard RFP language that can simplify ordering up cloud services. The Proposed Engine Assistant Tool (PEAT) will integrate the Alliance's Usage Models into an RFP process that allows any company to input their storage requirements and quickly generate standard RFP language.
The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is focused on issues around trust, namely interactions between cloud-based services or organizations through the cloud. Specifically, a group within CSA is considering the range of risks and concerns for both the user, and the service provider. The group is focusing on leveraging work from other organizations such as ISO and ITU. Perhaps most interesting, from an MSP perspective, is that CSA is considering ways to standardize and simplify SLAs to make them more understandable and enforceable.
Finally, CSA has been sponsoring the Software Defined Perimeter (SDP), an approach to security that is an open standard, which aims to mitigate network-based attacks by creating dynamically provisioned perimeters anywhere in the world – including in the cloud. According to CSA, the SDP starts with zero visibility and zero connectivity. The SDP dynamically builds networks to authorized applications only after the user and his or her device have been authenticated. Early in October, CSA announced that SDP had yet to be hacked after 2.9 billion packets fired from 104 countries in an attempted breach of a SDP protected public cloud.
In fact, CSA data showed nearly 11 million attempts had been made to break the first layer of the SDP, but none have succeeded – perhaps a rare bit of good news on the security front.