As expected, IBM’s (IBM) so-called “Open Cloud Manifesto” — basically an appeal to the industry to make their cloud computing components work together around common standards — is officially out this morning (it leaked late last week).
A few very big names in the industry have signed on board: IBM tells us that Google (GOOG),* SAP (SAP), Sun (JAVA), Cisco (CSCO), Rackspace (RAX), and dozens of other players have all signed the document.
“Cloud computing” basically holds the promise of doing a lot more computing with a lot less capital investment, and it’s expected to be a major focus of IT spending over the next few years. But in addition to fears over the new tech’s stability and security, fear of “vendor lock-in” is one obstacle for cloud enthusiasts to overcome in getting risk-adverse CIOs to embrace the idea.
IT guru Richard Stallman called cloud computing “worse than stupidity” late last year, specifically citing vendor lock-in as a problem with the idea.
Brian Goodman, manager at IBM for cloud services, told us that’s the problem for the industry, and why IBM shopped around the manifesto.
“Everyone’s talking about how do I stay out of the pit of quicksand, no one wants to find themselves locked into one vendor or technology,” Brian told us in a phone interview. “What we’re really doing with the open cloud manifesto is to respond to that, it’s literally the message of reassurance to say: A substantial portion of the industry has heard those concerns, and they’re working to deliver.”
But that “substantial portion of the industry” so far counts out two of its biggest players, Microsoft and Amazon.
Both Microsoft and Amazon protest they want interoperability too. Microsoft says it took offence to IBM presenting its ‘manifesto’ in take-it-or-leave-it fashion, and Amazon says actions matter, not promises.
Even though Microsoft stole some of IBM’s thunder by trashing the document, ultimately, all the newfound attention people are paying to cloud interoperability works in IBM’s favour. IBM primarily sells so-called “private clouds” and services, and since those private clouds may have to connect to larger, “public clouds” like Amazon’s EC2 or Microsoft’s Azure at times, IBM (for all its high-minded talk about customers) has a vested interest in seeing interoperability happen.
So consider IBM pushing its bizarrely-named ‘manifesto,’ despite the lukewarm reception it’s gotten, as a smart play. Even though neither Amazon nor Microsoft signed IBM’s document, both companies are now having to make public demonstrations of their commitment to the (IBM-initiated) idea of interoperability, even if they snub the ‘manifesto’ itself. Ultimately, that’s still good for IBM.
Update: While Google was on a draft list of companies signing on to the document that IBM circulated on Thursday, on Friday Google pulled out.
Google, like Amazon and Microsoft, claims committment to the principle behind the ‘manifesto,’ even if they refuse to sign it. Google spokesman Jon Murchinson: “We value industry dialog that results in more and better delivery of software and services via the Internet, and appreciate IBM’s leadership and commitment in this area. We continue to be open to interoperability with all vendors and any data.”