A new group is looking for common ground between vendors and end-users in an attempt to develop a common understanding about how cloud services should be deployed safely and effectively.

The Open Group Cloud Work Group includes vendors such as IBM and Sun, end-user organisations like Eli Lilly, financial services companies, and US and UK government officials.

Several new committees and organisations promoting cloud standards and frameworks have popped up this year. But the Open Group says it aims to contribute something unique by focusing on enterprise requirements for cloud computing, rather than the nitty-gritty technology details.

"The last thing this industry needs is more competing and contradictory information on emerging technologies like cloud computing," says Dave Lounsbury, the Open Group's vice president of collaboration services.

The group will meet weekly with a first goal of publishing a business scenario for enterprise cloud computing, which "will help companies identify and understand business needs relative to cloud computing and thereby derive the requirements that the architecture development must address," according to the Open Group. The idea is to help businesses make decisions about how to procure and use cloud computing services.

The Open Group says it has been discussing end-user requirements and potential vendor lock-in problems related to the cloud with its members for about a year. Enterprise IT shops want to know how they can use cloud services to gain new flexibility and elasticity in computing resources, and also how to address security concerns, the group says. In particular, identity management is important to businesses, both in terms of preventing unauthorised access to company resources and managing multiple identity mechanisms in a way that is not burdensome to end users, Lounsbury says.

"You need to know what kinds of identity management tools your cloud provider is going to require, and figure out how to knit that into your enterprise," he says.

But customers are seeing obvious benefits.

"People see the value of agility and elasticity," Lounsbury says. "Everyone wants to control capital expenditure but you have to do it in a way that maintains the security and integrity of the business."

The Open Group is a vendor-neutral consortium which, not surprisingly, promotes open standards and interoperability for enterprise technology.

With the Cloud Work Group, the organization is hoping vendors and users can collaborate to form a common set of beliefs about how cloud computing should be deployed, but isn't looking to dictate a strict set of standards that every organization must follow. As of now, there are many different types of cloud models that enterprises are trying to make sense of, Lounsbury says.

"We don't control what vendors produce," he says. "Right now, we think it's a good thing that there is this diversity in what cloud providers are doing."