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IBM Turns to Open Standards for Its Cloud

At its fourth annual Pulse conference last month in Las Vegas, IBM announced that all of its cloud services and software will be based on open standards, with OpenStack -- the open source effort initiated by Rackspace and NASA nearly three years ago -- at the Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) layer, the Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) for Platform as a Service (PaaS) application portability, and HTML 5 for Software as a Service (SaaS).

While Big Blue was an earlier participant in the project and now a platinum sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation, it waited until last year to publicly acknowledge its involvement in the OpenStack initiative. Now, IBM is throwing all of its weight behind the project.

IBM officials described the announcement as a commitment to lead in the stewardship and support of cloud standards tantamount to its support for Linux over a decade ago, Apache and Java 2 Enterprise Edition at the Web application server layer, and Eclipse at providing standardized integrated development environment (IDE) tools.

"The need for open cloud services is a must," said Robert Leblanc, senior vice president for middleware at IBM, speaking at a press conference at Pulse. "It's not a nice-to-have. I think it has become a must. Clients cannot afford the time and energy it takes to write specific interfaces to all the various cloud environments that are out there today. This has become too important, too large for us not to help clients, and so basing on a set of open standards is key and that's why we are moving all of the SmartCloud Capabilities over to cloud standards. We are jumping in full force."

Jay Snyder, director of platform engineering at the insurance giant Aetna, was present at the briefing and said he will only use cloud-based solutions that are standards-based.

"I can't just stress enough the importance of open standards and that's really regardless of platform," Snyder said. "If you think about the cloud, the layers of the stack in the cloud, the hypervisor, operating system and orchestration, we expect those layers of the stack to evolve and change. If we don't have standards, we potentially run the risk of vendor lock-in and that's something we absolutely want to avoid. For us, having those standards in place ensures if -- for financial reasons or functional reasons -- we want to replace a component of the stack, we can do that. And that's critical to our success."

For example, Snyder said his organization wants to be able to select a hypervisor without it locking him into certain cloud management, orchestration and cloud operating systems. "We want to be able to flexibly replace those components as they evolve," he said. "Standards, we think, is a great way to protect freedom of choice and innovation, and that's why we're focused on standards."

The first key deliverable from IBM to come out of this effort is its new SmartCloud Orchestrator software that lets organizations build new cloud services using patterns or templates with a GUI-based "orchestrator" that enables cloud automation. It automates cloud-based app deployment and lifecycle management providing configuration of compute, storage and network resources. It also provides a self-service portal to manage and account for the cost of using cloud resources.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on March 13, 2013 at 11:59 AM


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