A group of companies is starting up an Enterprise Cloud Buyers Council to try to remove barriers to enterprise use of hosted cloud computing.

Initial members include companies that offer hosted cloud computing as well as enterprises that use such services, including Microsoft, IBM, HP, Cisco, AT&T, BT, EMC, Deutsche Bank, Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs, CA, Nokia Siemens Networks, Telecom Italia and Telstra. Two industry organisations, Distributed Management Task Force and the IT Service Management Forum, are also involved. The TM Forum, an industry association that helps information and communications companies create profitable services, came up with the idea of the council.

One important issue that the council will try to address is the current fear among enterprises of vendor lock-in, said Gary Bruce, a principal researcher at BT. The council may decide to work on standards-based products around various layers of cloud computing, including the virtualisation, management and control layers, so that enterprises can more easily port their projects from one cloud computing vendor to another, he said.

In addition, enterprises are often concerned about security and reliability, he said.

"It might be that a full technical solution is needed, or it might be that education is needed," he said. The council will study the issues and decide how best to address them, he said.

The council may also develop programmes for dealing with cloud performance and latency issues

Noticeably absent from the initial list of members is Amazon, a leader in cloud computing services. A spokeswoman for Amazon did not immediately reply to a request for comment. This appears to mirror the row earlier this year when Microsoft claimed it had been excluded from the group of vendors setting up The Open Cloud Manifesto, a claim that was denied by the manifesto's author.

Separately, however, Amazon is also trying to remove barriers to using hosted cloud computing. Yesterday, it released a cost comparison calculator. The spreadsheet lets companies input information about their data needs, and then it compares the cost of using Amazon EC2, hosting the project internally or using a co-location facility. Amazon also released a white paper that outlines the direct and indirect costs of running a data centre.

IBM and Microsoft did not reply to requests for comment about their involvement in the council. BT is currently developing a cloud computing service called BT Koala.

The TM Forum is hosting a web conference on 16 December to offer more details about the council.