CloudEthernet Forum to fight cloud fragmentation

Every cloud provider has its own technologies, its own buzzwords, its own APIs – and that’s a challenge for enterprises.

High on their cloud shopping lists are ideas like portability, compatibility and interoperability.

So far, cloud providers have been unable to address those demands. That’s about to change, thanks to standards work being done by the CloudEthernet Forum, a relatively new nonprofit organization spun out of the well-established MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum).

The CEF previewed two new programs at the NetEvents Cloud Innovation Summit, held here in late March 2014: the CloudE 1.0 Framework and OpenCloud Project.

The CloudE 1.0 Framework defines a set of standardized services to be offered by cloud service providers.

The organisation lists what it calls the Five Fundamentals of cloud computing: Virtualisation, Automation, Security, Programmability and Analytics, or VASPA.

The CloudE 1.0 Framework seeks to define those VASPA fundamentals in a way that can be implemented in a consistent manner and used to orchestrate interoperability and portability between cloud providers.

The notion of interoperability between cloud providers is a big part of the CEF’s objectives. Currently, enterprises typically access cloud services through the public Internet, and the enterprise data centre is the aggregation point between services running on multiple clouds.

That is changing, however, thanks to high-bandwidth direct Ethernet connections between enterprise data centers and cloud providers, bypassing the public Internet.

With improvements to virtual machines, as well as network orchestration using SDN (Software Defined Networking) and NFV (Network Function Virtualisation), enterprises want to have virtual networks and application orchestrating spanning multiple services providers, with direct links between their native services and VMs via Carrier Ethernet.

This sounds easy. It’s not, due to the proliferation of proprietary specifications and APIs.

“This is vitally important work if we are to avoid cloud fragmentation,” said James Walker, president of the CEF and Vice President of Managed Network Services at Tata Communications in a statement.

“The shift to cloud computing is as fundamental and far-reaching as the shift from mainframe to personal computer that did so much to boost business in the 1980s.

“But initially what hindered the transition was the rapid fragmentation of the PC market into rival operating systems.

“The same could happen to cloud services under rival cloud providers – unless we can define global standards for an industry wide global open cloud environment. CloudE 1.0 is our first step on the path to the open cloud.”

You can’t have interoperability with industry standards without some way of testing for compliance, and ultimately certifying for compliance.

That’s where the Open Cloud Project comes in, offering a Silicon Valley-based test bed that vendors can use to study the CloudE 1.0 specifications, implement those specifications and ultimately test their own offerings on a live code base.

“The industry faces a real challenge: simultaneously integrating three relatively new concepts – NFV, SDN and Carrier Ethernet – to create an open cloud environment,” said Jeff Schmitz, CEF Chairman and Executive Vice President of Spirent Communications.

“Here’s a chance to test and standardize your cloud services with an initial focus on application performance management, cloud security and traffic load balancing.

“If you want to be involved in the future of cloud, the CEF is your chance to put your ideas to the test.”

The Open Cloud Project test bed will be managed by Iometrix, located in South San Francisco, Calif. Iometrix also manages the MEF’s Carrier Ethernet 2.0 equipment and services testing and certifications programs.

The CloudEthernet Forum comprises many of the industry’s top players, encompassing carriers, equipment manufacturers, cloud service providers and supporting companies: Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Chef, Ciena, Comcast Business, Citrix, CoreSite, Cyan, Ericsson, Equinix, Hewlett-Packard, Huawei, Iometrix, Juniper Networks, PCCW Global, Spirent, Telx, Tata Communications, Verizon, Veryx and Wedge Networks.

The organisation is tackling a real problem, cloud fragmentation, and CloudE 1.0 is a step in the right direction for finding the right answers.

By Alan Zeichick

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