DMTF's Cloud Infrastructure Standard

Friday, September 07, 2012

Ben Kepes

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Standards – a topic sure to raise the blood pressure of those discussing them. Some say that it’s too early for cloud standards as they have a tendency to hamper innovation.

Others say that it’s only through standards that we can protect cloud customer.

Into this fray comes the DMTF, a 20 year old organization focused on standards for systems management, DMTF have just released CIMI or the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface, a standard that aims to create consistency between cloud environments with the aim of increasing cloud interoperability.

The release today includes three components:

  • Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface – (CIMI) Model and REST Interface over HTTP Specification
  • Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface – Common Information Model (CIMI-CIM) Mapping Specification
  • Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface – (CIMI) Primer

The main barrier to previous initiatives around cloud standards has been two fold;

  1. The organizations involved around the standards have been a select group, bogged down in politics and creating silos
  2. The standard tries to force people to adopt a particular specification which hampers their ability to differentiate

In terms of the first barrier, the DMTF would seem to have canvassed a wide selection of vendors and others groups in creating this specification. Vendors supporting the initial announcement include Broadcom, Brocade, Citrix, CA Technologies, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, RedHat, Savvis, Software AG, SunGard and VMware.

While that is something of a selection of old-school companies, it does span service providers and infrastructure vendors and that is encouraging. I’d hope to see a broader support for CIMI emerge in the short term to ensure it doesn’t go the way of other less broadly supported initiatives.

The DMTF itself might have something of a credibility problem if the following quote from an industry insider (who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons) is anything to go by:

"In general, DMTF struggles to be relevant. It’s populated by a bunch of old-schoolers, and so gets bogged down in politics..."

DMTF has wisely liaised with a number of special interest groups in creating the standard including 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).

While this seems like a case of name dropping industry groups, the fact is that it takes widespread acceptance and adoption for a specification to become a standard. If engaging is any measure of success, DMTF has ticked off that box.

In terms of the second barrier, that of reducing innovation, DMTF has taken a pragmatic view towards their standard and is expecting vendors to embrace a dual strategy that sees them deliver two products – one a CIMI compliant offering and the second a more proprietary offering that allows for more proprietary functionality.

While this is arguably more complex than a simple standard – it does reflect the reality of the situation in that people want to rubber stamp a standard, but also want to deliver proprietary functionality as a point of differentiation from the competition.

CIMI is a positive initiative, but like other past initiatives of its type, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ll see…

Cross-posted from Diversity

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