Do Cloud Standards Matter?

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LAS VEGAS. Everyone is talking about the cloud at the Interop conference this week in Las Vegas. One of the opportunities that cloud provides enterprises with is choice of provider, but with so many alternatives, how do you make a choice?

A panel of cloud vendors including Engine Yard, Microsoft, Rackspace and Verizon tackled the issue of how to choose a cloud provider. One issue that was raised repeatedly during the session was the one of standards.

"Cloud is a big shift in IT," Tom Mornini, CTO and Co-Founder at Engine Yard said. "It's too early to nail down standards at this point and I don't think we know enough to tie into standard now."

Standardization can also lead to commoditization, which is another hotly debated topic. Zane Adam, General Manager of Azure and Middleware at Microsoft, told the audience that Microsoft is using software and services as part of its Azure offering. Adam added that Microsoft believes there is room for differentiation in the cloud space. It is Microsoft's goal to offer that differentiated cloud service.

"If everything is standard than we just compete on pricing," Adam said.

"IP is now commoditized -- why would cloud be any different?" Christopher Gesell, Chief Strategist Cloud Services at Verizon Business said.

Gesell noted that in his view there is a narrow window of 12 to 24 months before cloud becomes commoditized. In that window of time, he sees a small opportunity for different vendors to differentiate themselves in the short term.

"Vendors will have to figure out their niche and how they will compete," Gesell said.

Gesell added that when it comes to standards, he too believes it's a bit early. Verizon doesn't want to build a cloud to a standard that doesn't win.

From a cost perspective, in the short term the cloud isn't always a cheaper alternative. Clearly, there are metrics beyond just pure capital and operational expenditures that need to be considered when thinking about the coud.

"It's not just about dollars, it's more about time," Mornini said. "We believe that time is the most valuable thing and you never know what you have and you can never get more."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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