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November 22, 2010

Industry players unite to bring transparency to cloud

Industry group hopes for vendor self-certification

By Jason Stamper

CIF Certified

Industry group the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) has taken the wraps off a new Code of Conduct for cloud providers to adhere to, aimed at increasing the transparency, capability and accountability of firms offering cloud services.

CIF says it has been working on the Code of Practice since October 2009 and that over 200 organisations reviewed the draft Code.

There are eight founding members of the Cloud Industry Forum: Outsourcery, Fasthosts, Rackspace Hosting, Nominet, APMG-International, Scalable, Computacenter and the Ferderation Against Software Theft (FAST).

Speaking to CBR, CIF chairman and CEO of Fasthosts Andy Burton said that it should not matter that major cloud providers like IBM, Microsoft, Google and Amazon are absent from the list of founding firms, saying that CIF is, "In discussions with all of those," and that many are expected to begin the process of self-certification even though they have not been founding members.

There are a number of industry bodies now working in the cloud computing sphere, including CIF, the Enterprise Cloud Buyers Council (which counts among its founding members Microsoft, IBM, HP, Cisco, AT&T, BT, EMC, Deutsche Bank, Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs and CA), Compuware’s CloudSleuth Community and the Open Data Centre Alliance.

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But Burton told us these should not be seen as competitive: "This is a fairly nascent market, with more opportunity ahead of it than behind it," he said. "Any voices are a good thing; there are many initiatives out there but we are the only body in the world focused on trust and transparency, to help make it easier for consumers of cloud services to make a decision."

Companies are able to certify themselves CIF Certified if they can meet and adhere to the Code of Conduct. Burton said that CIF will receive those certifications and spot check the details, as well as investigate any comments or complaints about certified providers. "We hope that the CIF Certified logo will become like the padlock symbol in the early days of the Internet, giving customers reassurance that the right levels of transparency, capability and accountability are all in place," Burton said.

Mark Cresswell is president of Scalable, a cloud service provider and CIF founder member that has begun the process of self-certification today. He said it was hard to gauge how much resource will be required to achieve certification but his company is pulling in three people from technology, sales and marketing and finance and administration to work together on certification. "We think it will probably take about a month, because we will need to pull information from a variety of sources and systems and make sure they are in the right format."

Burton said by the end of the year, CIF hopes the number of cloud providers who have achieved self-certification will number "in the high tens". "We’ve been focused on building the Code and testing it and improving it," he said, "now we need to go through the various communities to get the message out there and evangelise the message."

The new CIF Code of Conduct could be adhered to by both public and private cloud providers, according to Burton, and even be used by an end user organisation building out its own private cloud.

Scalable’s Cresswell added: "It was absolutely essential that all major stakeholders in the cloud ecosystem see the clear benefits in the Code. It had to include end-users as well as providers and the large number of smaller organisations offering customisable packages of services between the two. At the end of the day this is about building trust in the Cloud and we firmly believe that the Code of Practice will deliver just that."

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