The Open Cloud: Management Standards Achieve Interoperability

By Winston Bumpus, Chairman, DMTF

February 1, 2013

Enterprise and high performance computing (HPC) IT managers around the globe are adopting cloud computing technologies to deliver higher quality services while lowering costs and improving efficiencies. Though IT managers in both sectors must make fundamental changes to adopt cloud technologies, the benefits of adoption are substantial.

Using the cloud to deliver IT services is promising to be highly agile and cost-effective for consumers, particularly up-front costs. This approach impacts not only the way computing is used, but also the technology and processes that are used to construct and manage IT organizations and service providers. In this article, we will explore the road blocks in the industry as well as the steps that are currently being taken to address these challenges.

Cloud Management Standard Benefits

With the increasing need for flexibility, availability and performance in today’s organizations, management standards for IT professionals are now more important than ever before. Cloud management standards help aid IT professionals in addressing the known challenges in the industry – affecting the interoperability, portability and security of cloud computing environments. Establishing well-rounded, industry-wide cloud interfaces will help to alleviate end-user concerns over functionality, portability and cost. Additionally, deploying systems, tools and solutions that support management standards helps to reduce system management complexity and improve agility. Standards-based cloud infrastructures offer many benefits, including:

  • Better Portability and Interoperability – Standard interfaces provide flexibility for future extensions, eliminating vendor lock-in while promoting interoperability.

  • Quicker Time-to-Value – With established management processes in place, the value of cloud computing will be realized faster.

  • Shorter Deployment Cycles – cloud standards enable shorter deployment cycles with industry-wide processes already in place.

  • Lowers Risks and Costs – Standards eliminate the need to “reinvent the wheel” – resulting in lower risks and costs.

  • Establishes a Foundation for Innovation –Establishing industry-wide interfaces for cloud will provide a better foundation for innovation.

  • Enhanced Security – Industry standards will provide a base and customary process for establishing security in the cloud.


Figure A: Benefits of Cloud Management Standards


Cloud Management Industry Roadblocks

While the benefits of implementing cloud computing practices are evident, there are also multiple adoption challenges and questions facing the industry. These include:

  • Retaining Flexibility in Selecting Cloud Providers – How do you adopt or switch to a new cloud provider without high costs?

  • Managing Security and Business Risk – How do you manage security and business continuity risk across several cloud providers?

  • Integrating into IT and Business Processes – How do you integrate computer, network, and storage services from one or more cloud service providers into your business and IT processes?

  • Maintaining Governance and Audit Processes – How do you maintain effective governance and audit processes across integrated datacenters and cloud providers?

  • Managing Services Lifecycles – How do you manage the lifecycle of a service in a distributed multiple-provider environment in order to satisfy service-level agreements (SLAs) with your customers?

Figure B: Cloud Management Challenges

Next >> Addressing Industry Roadblocks

Addressing Industry Roadblocks

Founded in 1992, the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF) enables effective management of millions of IT systems worldwide by bringing the industry together to collaborate on systems management standards with a particular focus on cloud management. DMTF is working to address the previously mentioned cloud industry roadblocks through its Cloud Management Initiative, which is focused on developing interoperable cloud management standards and promoting adoption of those standards in the industry.

DMTF’s Cloud Management Initiative receives contributions from multiple working groups to address the various challenges in the industry. These working groups include the Cloud Management Working Group (CMWG), the Cloud Auditing Data Federation (CADF), the Software Entitlement Working Group (SEWG) and the System, Virtualization, Partitioning and Clustering Working Group (SVPC).

Additionally, DMTF collaborates with a number of industry organizations in an effort to unify their cloud management initiatives and to avoid duplicating standards efforts. These organizations include the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA), the China Communications Standards Association (CCSA), the China Electronics Standardization Institute (CESI), the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA), the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), the Open Grid Forum (OGF), the Object Management Group (OMG), the Open Group (TOG), the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), the Global Inter-Cloud Technology Forum (GICTF) and the TeleManagement Forum (TMF).

Simplifying Cloud Infrastructure Management

In August 2012, DMTF announced the release of the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI) specification, which is focused on addressing interoperability challenges in the cloud, specifically in the IaaS space. The new specification standardizes interactions between cloud environments to achieve interoperable cloud infrastructure management between service providers and their consumers and developers, enabling users to manage their cloud infrastructure use easily and without complexity. CIMI allows interoperability between consumers and multiple providers that all offer the standard CIMI interface for managing cloud infrastructure, helping to avoid vendor lock-in.

As more and more companies continue to adopt cloud computing technologies, vendors have embraced the need to provide interoperability between enterprise computing and cloud services. CIMI was developed as a self-service, common interface to interoperate between cloud systems, reducing the effort to use multiple clouds. This results in decreased friction between clouds, causing the overall market for cloud computing to grow.

The CIMI specification is the centerpiece of DMTF’s Cloud Management Initiative, and is the first standard created by the Cloud Management Working Group (CMWG). Multiple cloud vendors, service providers and telecom companies collaborated to develop CIMI, as real world cloud-related case studies and issues were factored into the standard’s development. Additionally, many member companies have expressed their support for CIMI, including Broadcom, CA Technologies, Citrix, Fujitsu, HP, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Red Hat, SunGard Availability Services, VMware, Brocade, Hitachi, Savvis and Software AG. CIMI is extensible for both unique vendor features as well as future versions of the standard. The organization plans to make future updates to the specification as needed based on implementation experience.

Enabling Portability & Simplified Deployment of Virtual Appliances

Another important aspect of DMTF’s cloud work includes the Open Virtualization Format (OVF), a standard for packaging and distributing virtual appliances to and from a cloud. Virtualization technologies make it possible to run multiple operating systems and applications on the same computer at the same time, increasing hardware utilization and flexibility. The rapid adoption of virtual infrastructure highlighted the need for a standard, portable metadata model for the distribution of virtual machines to and between virtual platforms.

To address this need, DMTF released the OVF standard in March 2009. OVF simplifies interoperability, security and machine lifecycle management by describing an open, secure, portable, efficient and extensible format for packaging and distributing workloads consisting of one or more virtual machines and applications. By implementing the OVF standard, software developers are able to ship pre-configured, ready-to-deploy solutions, allowing end-users to easily distribute applications into their environments. OVF is an important foundation for DMTF’s cloud standards development, specifically in relation to CIMI. For example, CIMI allows the import of an OVF package to create multiple CIMI resources. Support for the actual import and export of OVF packages will typically be handled by the hypervisor under the management of the CIMI implementation.

OVF was adopted as an American National Standard Institute (ANSI) International Committee for Information Technology Standards (INCITS) standard in August 2010. OVF was then adopted as an international standard in August 2011 by the Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1) of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). Today, OVF has achieved widespread cloud vendor adoption and is considered the first and most successful standard in the IaaS space. DMTF recently released a new version of the OVF standard (OVF 2.0) which applies to emerging cloud use cases and includes multiple enhancements, particularly in the areas of network configuration and deployment functionality.

Software Entitlement

Another important aspect of DMTF’s ongoing cloud work includes contributions from the Software Entitlement Working Group. This working group is focused on addressing software license management challenges in cloud systems and virtual environments. To address these challenges, the group is working to develop a set of recommendations to guide future industry standardization of software license management in these environments.

The group developed a whitepaper in June 2012, Software Identification and Entitlement Usage Metrics, describing a representative set of use cases for cloud, data center, virtualization, and on-premise needs. It provides recommendations on technology standards to consider to sufficiently identify licensed software products, and to trace and gather the use of the software and other entitlement usage metrics across the span of deployments.

Cloud Auditing

The last piece of DMTF’s ongoing cloud efforts includes the work of the Cloud Auditing Data Federation (CADF) Working Group. The CADF is working to develop open standards for audit data, which can be federated from cloud providers, with the intent to elevate customer’s trust in cloud hosted applications. Specifications and profiles produced by the CADF will help protect investments of companies seeking to move their applications to cloud deployment models and preserve their ability to audit operational processes, regardless of their chosen cloud provider. The CADF is currently working to develop specifications for audit event data and interface models and a compatible interaction model that will describe interactions between IT resources for cloud deployment models.

This working group recently released a Work-In-Progress specification that offers a clear and extensible event model that specifies how cloud providers can produce and share consistent audit event, log and report information regardless of their infrastructure or deployment model. The specification further offers standard mechanisms for cloud customers to self-audit the security and compliance of their cloud-hosted applications and data, including relevant information about the provider’s operational software and underlying hardware infrastructure. This Work-In-Progress specification is expected to be released as a DMTF specification in 2013.

Cloud Standards: An Ongoing Effort

As cloud computing continues to gain momentum in the IT industry, standards will continue to play an increasingly important role. Even though cloud technologies present a number of unknown challenges and industry roadblocks, various standards bodies, including DMTF are making progressive strides in areas such as interoperability, security and interfaces. Cloud standards development and adoption is still fairly new in the industry, but fully recognized standards are expected to emerge over the next few years – realizing substantial, industry-wide benefits.

For more information on DMTF’s cloud work, visit www.dmtf.org/standards/cloud.

About the Author

Winston Bumpus, DMTF Chairman and Co-Chair of the Cloud Management Working Group (CMWG), has had over 40 years of experience in the computer industry. He is co-author of the books “Common Information Model” and “The Foundations of Application Management.” He has participated in the DMTF for over 15 years and worked on its early development of the Common Information Model (CIM) and Web Based Enterprise Management (WBEM) standards and founded and chaired its Application Management Working Group. As co-chair of the Cloud Management Working Group (CMWG), he has also recently contributed to the development of the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI) standard.

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