How many more industry groupings do we need?

The formation of the Open Data Centre Alliance is just another in a long list of organisations that are seeking to develop some sort of clout with vendors. But this one may just be different.

For a start, it's got some pretty heavyweight members: when you have an organisation whose members include the likes of Shell, UBS, BMW, JP Morgan Chase and more than 60 others you're talking about a body with plenty of clout, both in terms of political influence and in terms of IT spend. The alliance itself thinks that it collectively controls $50 billion dollars worth of IT spend - a figure that would make it the 70th biggest country in the world if it were a separate state - and that's a pot that would keep all IT vendors interested.

Except that the vendors are being kept at arms' length for this one. The organisation has decided that IT vendors - apart from Intel - will not be part of the alliance. According to a spokeswoman for the alliance, "Due to Intel’s unique role in the industry and deep experience with industry consortiums, Intel was asked to fulfil this role at the direction of the Steering Committee. They are the only industry player who will participate as a non-voting participant in the Alliance Steering Committee, but we expect broad industry engagement driven by Alliance workgroups to foster spirited vendor-neutral debate on development of usage model documents." In other words, unlike some industry bodies, this is not going to be a way for some major vendors to dominate proceedings.

What will the ODCA be able to achieve? For one thing it's going to have the clout to help drive genuine, open standards when it comes to data centre development and, in particular, interoperability in the cloud.This has been a bugbear since cloud computing first appeared and users started to be concerned about cloud provider lock-in. ODCA is looking to set up working parties to define new models for cloud computing, preparing guidelines for vendors to work to.

Matt Eastwood of IDC was quick to recognise the significance of this move pointing out that "The Open Data Centre Alliance represents the first time such a significant number of end users are committing to an industry organisation with the specific goal of defining data centre and cloud usage models in an open, industry-standard and multi-vendor fashion." And that's precisely the point - it's not just about the industrial muscle of these companies; it's not just about their refusal to tie themselves closely to a vendor but it's the fact that they're aiming for a specific outcome - something that will define a way of working that will have repercussions for an entire industry. And by being user-led, there's a chance that the models that will be followed are actually going to contribute to the advancement of the technology.

This is a long way from being just another industry talking shop - this could be a group that could change the face of cloud computing and start leading to a wider adoption. More power to it.

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