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Vacant Seats for Enterprise CIOs Atthe Cloud Computing Research Table?

By Steve Hodgkinson, research director at Ovum

Open Cirrus is expanding its research base

At its first annual summit last week in Palo Alto, the collaborative cloud computing research initiative Open Cirrus announced that its membership is expanding. The facility comprises six data-centre sites around the world, provided by its founding partners: HP Research Labs, Intel Research, Yahoo Research and the University of Illinois in the US; the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany; and the Infocomm Development Authority in Singapore.

Three new research organisations are joining Open Cirrus: the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in Korea and the R&D arm of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation in Malaysia.

Open Cirrus is referred to as a ‘test bed’ and its aim is to provide global-scale physical and virtual cloud computing resources for use by the participating organisations for the development and testing of cloud systems and applications. Amazon AWS is the de facto standard interface, with Hadoop and MapReduce as the programming model. The sort of research projects in the hopper include: data-centre federation and management, integration of cloud services, management of service quality, and protection of data integrity, privacy and security. The preference is for open source projects that advance the cloud computing model and remove bottlenecks for its wider adoption.

Cloud research needs a vendor-neutral infrastructure platform

While Open Cirrus is a great initiative, it appears to be still finding its feet – and it is noteworthy that the most significant announcement out of the summit was the three new members, as opposed to the new research achievements (notwithstanding the fact that it is, of course, an achievement to have mobilised Open Cirrus, and there are some 50 projects under way).

The cloud computing industry is much in need of a global-scale vendor-neutral infrastructure platform upon which research teams can test solutions to some of the fundamental issues that the cloud will need to overcome in order to facilitate enterprise adoption.

Cloud innovation is currently being driven primarily by the applied research efforts of the world’s cloudy giants: Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce, powered by technology innovations created by the likes of Cisco, Citrix, IBM, Intel, HP, Sun and VMware. Of course, we should not forget the innovations driven by the many smaller cloud vendors and technology start-ups.

Enterprise CIOs need to pay attention to the dangers in the cloud

However, from the perspective of an enterprise CIO there is a danger in cloud research continuing to be dominated by companies seeking to stake out their claims in the Wild West goldfields prior to the arrival of law and order. Possession, as always, is nine-tenths of the law in the early stages of new discoveries.

Enterprise CIOs should start to pay attention to the evolving cloud research landscape, and perhaps it is time that we started to see large business corporations involving themselves in initiatives like Open Cirrus and the emerging debates on cloud standards.

Cloud computing has the potential to be a new, more open and interoperable model for meeting enterprise computing needs. However, it is intrinsically a game played to the rules of economies of scale, and the way to get scale is through first-mover advantage and the practical lock-in effect of de facto standardisation.

Enterprise CIOs should be on the front foot to shape the evolving cloud computing research agenda to ensure that it creates the building blocks of a more, rather than less, open future. /PR

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