Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Grid and cloud standards at OGF34, Oxford

This week I am on a bit of a nostalgia trip to Oxford for OGF34. A reasonably large number of years ago I was an undergraduate here, and spent many hours in labs just round the corner from where OGF is being held in the eScience Centre, Oxford University. So I’m attending sessions while constantly fighting the niggling feeling that I ought to be in a tutorial somewhere or revising for finals…

The event kicked off yesterday with a welcome from host David Wallom of the eScience Centre and an introduction by Alan Sill of Texas Tech University. “The rest of the world has discovered distributed computing – and most of all they have discovered us,” said Sill. “This is good news for standards activities.”

OGF was set up to solve problems with large distributed computing infrastructure, such as federated identity management, managing trust ecosystems, setting up virtual organisations, job submission and workflow management and network management, among many others. Over the last ten years, they have released an impressive 194 standards or informational documents and they are currently working to gather them into a ‘Cloud portfolio’.

The basic, core infrastructure specification work is still going on, but now with increased interest from outside parties. For example, XSEDE is the replacement for the Teragrid infrastructure, and represents a phase change in the engagement of OGF standards with the US cyberinfrastructure. Open standards here mean reduction of risk, the ability to choose ‘best of breed’ and to mix and match solutions, increased innovation and competition, together with interoperation between infrastructures.

Increasingly, OGF is interacting with industry standards bodies, such as SNIA, the Storage Networking Industry Association. Their cloud ‘plugfests’ have been very successful, where vendors to bring their implementations of cloud standards such as CDMI (Cloud Data Management Interface) and OGF’s Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) to test, identify, and fix bugs in a collaborative setting. As a result, several active OCCI and CDMI implementations are progressing into production ready solutions.

Several cooperative agreements are in preparation, for example between OCCI and DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force), a Category A liaison with the International Standards Organisation on cloud computing and an OCCI/CDMI cooperative agreement with SNIA. All good news for the future of interoperable clouds.

According to Sill, cloud is proving to be ‘one use case mode among many’, and the activities of OGF dovetail with the activities of these other bodies. “We are not in competition with them – better standards can only benefit the users,” says Sill.

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