Just how many cloud standards bodies does the world need?

The news that the International Telecommunications Union, the ITU, is setting up its own focus group to examine the subject, to examine existing standards in the field and to make recommendations as to whether  global standards are needed.

Oh joy!. So far, the cloud computing movement - and its drive for standards, has spawned the Open Cloud Manifesto, the Enterprise Cloud Buyers Council, the Distributed Management Task Force, the Cloud Industry Forum, the Cloud Security Alliance, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the Cloud Storage Initiative and, of course, the International Standards Organisation are all looking at some aspects of cloud computing - whether it be cloud security, storage, interoperability or something else.

What's most problematical about the ITU drive is that the telecoms industry has had chequered career when it comes to devising industry standards. Committees by their very nature are cumbersome beasts and telecoms committees appear to be beasts laden down with a host of different burdens. Let's not forget that it was the ITU that came up with X.400 as  an email standard while the whole world was already moving to SMTP and ISDN when other broadband services not only offered greater bandwidth but had become more widely accepted. There appears to be something particularly sclerotic about telecomms standards bodies - probably related to their long history as adjuncts of the government, or at least government-run telecoms bodies.

That's not to say that there's no need for standards in cloud computing. It's a sprawling technology with a great many problems. The greatest barriers to its adoption are security, interoperability and vendor lock-in, all issues that will certainly need the intervention of some sort of standards organisation - but it must be doubted that an organisation like the ITU is the right one to provide it.

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