The cloud's conflict of interest over interoperability

It's time for cloud customers to vote with their dollars to get the openness and portability they've been promised

Interoperability is all the talk these days in the world of cloud computing. The PowerPoint presentations speak for themselves in their descriptions of the ability to move data, code, and even virtual machines and binary images among clouds, both private and public, with drag-and-drop ease.

Indeed, there is no real reason we can't move quickly in this direction. Many cloud providers use similar internal architectures and virtualization technology approaches, as well as similar API architectures. That provides the potential basis for interface and platform compatibility.

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Yet there are no cloud offerings today that actually deliver on the true vision of cloud-to-cloud interoperability. What gives?

Although there are indeed several technology issues such as lack of standards that inhibit cloud interoperability, they're technically solvable. The core motivation behind the lack of cloud interoperability is based on a simpler rationale: greed. Cloud providers have a clear conflict of interesting in support interoperability, as it deprives them of the ability to lock in customers.

This conflict is hardly new or unique to the cloud. While technology providers over the years have publicly promoted standards and interoperability, their business interests push them away from the interoperability that would make it easy for customers to move to other providers. After all, if there is true interoperability, there is true commodity -- which means less perceived value and differentiation, and thus less money. No technology provider, including the cloud computing variety, wants to see that happen.

I don't care what the cloud providers tell you about being "open," having "no lock-in," and being able to "run anywhere," these words won't mean anything for some time. There is simply no business motivation to deliver on these promises. The trouble is that cloud providers' interests do not coincide with customers' interests, yet users and customers depend on the cloud providers to create both the interoperability standards and the mechanisms to implement it.

So what can you do? Vote with your dollars. If enough enterprises, and perhaps the government, refuse to support cloud providers that are more proprietary in nature and don't provide a clear path to interoperability, the providers will get the message quickly. By channeling your money to the more open providers, you will create the business case needed to implement and support standards and code, data, and binary interoperability. Then we can actually get the true value of the cloud.

This article, "The cloud's conflict of interest over interoperability," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and follow the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com.

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