Cloud network

IEEE wants the cloud to grow like the Internet

Will cloud services become as ubiquitous and mainstream as the Internet?

Members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers are laying the groundwork for such a scenario via an Intercloud Testbed designed to demonstrate how different types of cloud computing environments can connect and exchange information.

In October, IEEE announced the project’s founding companies and said they will work to develop cloud-to-cloud interoperability and federation capabilities, which will also assist in the development of the forthcoming IEEE P2302 standard for cloud-to-cloud interworking. “Federation,” in this context, refers to the ability to interconnect multiple independent networks. 

The IEEE Intercloud Testbed’s founding members include 21 cloud and network service providers, cloud-enabling companies, and academic and industry research institutions from the United States, the Asia-Pacific region and Europe. U.S. companies include Juniper Networks; Telx Group, a provider of interconnection services and co-location data centers; and Virtustream, a provider of infrastructure-as-a-service and cloud management software.

The 21 organizations have volunteered to provide their own cloud implementations and expertise to the shared testbed. They will also collaborate to produce a working prototype and open-source global intercloud.

A network-to-network interface architecture serves as the underlying technical architecture for the testbed and the IEEE cloud interoperability standard in development. The NNI architecture is analogous to the approach used to create the international direct-distance dialing telephone system and the Internet, IEEE officials said.

The federated architecture will make it possible for clouds operated by different service providers or enterprises to interconnect and interoperate via peering, roaming, and exchange (broker) techniques. Existing cloud interoperability solutions typically employ a simpler user-to-network interface “multicloud” approach but do not have the ability to interconnect multiple independent networks. As a result, the underlying clouds still function as walled gardens. 

The cloud is rapidly evolving to support a wide variety of enterprise and consumer applications and real-world applications, said Joe Weinman, senior vice president of cloud services and strategy at Telx Group and chairman of the IEEE Intercloud Testbed executive committee.

As such, cloud computing going forward will require a variety of ecosystem players: cloud service providers, network service providers, brokers, markets, exchanges, hybrid and autoscaling management, and other intermediaries, Weinman said. 

John Messina, a senior member with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cloud computing program, speaking at a conference in May, predicted that five years from now a suite of international interoperability standards will lead to a cloud of clouds, or “intercloud,” where there will be tight integration between multiple clouds.

This tighter integration of clouds will have practical implications for government agencies, giving analysts the ability to sift through siloes of big data applications to make better informed decisions, Messina said.

As international standards for cloud reference architectures near completion, the focus is shifting to standards for interoperability and portability, which is the ability to transfer cloud applications from different cloud providers’ databases or infrastructures. Portability is an equally important issue for government agencies that do not want to be locked into any one cloud provider’s infrastructure, especially if the provider should go out of business

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