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  Intercomms Issue 17
Issue 17 Articles

Cloud Collaboration

Margot Dor, responsible for co-coordinating ETSI’s approach to international collaboration Cloud computing, talks to InterComms about progress on this front

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Q: What is ETSI involvement in Cloud standards?
A: Cloud is at the crossroads of several different issues for hardware, software and infrastructure and services. You have infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, software as a service and storage as a service. It is a new paradigm. Although there has been convergence for some time there are still many different organisations, industries, policy makers and regulators trying to figure out the best way to standardise what needs to be done while not hampering innovation. Some organisations have already started working on elements of the puzzle with roadmaps of what is needed, as is the case with NIST. The standardisation work per se is not in its infancy, so the question is really one of what is needed in order to enable the relevant negotiation to develop, without pre-empting or precluding innovation.

We are freeing up ETSI in regards to the work that has already started and we are very active with regards to security and lawful interception in the Cloud, which is a very hot issue for some pieces of the ecosystem. In mapping the Cloud initiative, we ensure that industry, policy and the regulatory requirement are aligned so that ETSI standards are developed to meet an identified need in the market, not just for the sake of it.The Cloud is also posing some very specific interesting questions in terms of policy in the areas of security, portability, data security and there is a lot of work to do in those areas.

Q: How does the input of governments influence what you do in the area of Cloud, such as in security and lawful interception?
A: Governments are members of ETSI, are just like any other members and if they so wish and have an interest, they can debate and get involved in the many different aspects of ETSI’s work. Sometimes they participate in the wider regulatory agenda for content delivery, security such an Electronic Communication and Network and Security (ECNS) and the use of spectrum radio in Europe. How they participate is exactly like any other member; they make contributions which are reviewed and then discussed. For Cloud, what is happening is very interesting because for the Public Cloud, they have some very specific issues for storing, processing and retrieving public information for e-gov, e-health and things like that.

The European Commission has a specific role of counsellor to ETSI without voting rights in the institute. Some of their policy considerations have a knock on effect in terms of standards and ETSI is very careful to look at them because we are partners in some regulatory and policy areas that may drive into standardisation work.

Q: How are you working with other regional and national bodies, I noted your September workshop; Standards in the Cloud: a transatlantic mindshare in late September?
A: We are working with the US in regards to the Cloud and we have a regulatory dialogue with others such as China. Ideally there should be one global standard. Experience however, proves that this is seldom what happens for a variety of reasons. Often there is more to standards than mere technology considerations.

Q: What Cloud standards does ETSI feel are near completion and what are the areas where more work needs to be done?
A: The biggest challenge will be the myriad of different components coming from very heterogeneous origins that have to work together. This is certainly something we are going to be discussing in our September workshop. One of the strengths of ETSI is our Centre for Testing and Interoperability, a centre of expertise which has helped ensure the development of interoperable standards for many different systems. Standards in the Cloud are all going to be about this because you will have little bit that comes from the US, a little bit from Europe etc. What industry wants is for this thing to interoperate in order to serve a particular business need.

Q: Could you give me an update on you work on the Cloud working with the Open Grid Forum (OGF) and the NESSI?
A: NESSI is a European Technology Platform that works on software and services in the scope of the European research area here. We co-operate with them in order to make sure that if and when a research project reaches the stage where standardisation is needed, then ETSI puts forward the offer of tools to develop the standards. This has been now been successful in several earlier instances.

With the OGF we have a different kind of relationship. The OGF are doing a roadmap and inventory for standards in the Cloud, in particular for the scientific community. We work with them and they are invited to speak at our workshops and events. One of the issues is to make sure that they are considered by industries who are involved in large scale industrial deployments. Another goal is to ensure if the value added by this inventory mapping and road map can be replicated or exported and to broaden the scope of their project to something that is more industry based.

Q: What are the specific issues at the event?
A: The Workshop is within the framework of the Transatlantic Partnership and one of the ideas is to ensure we have a broad view of the policy issues that may have a knock on effect on standardisation. Issues where there is not full alignment between US and EU policy view might well be where there is the most debate. I think that the approach to privacy issues might be different and may impact on the way we implement standards. There are some areas where there are big question marks both in US and Europe regarding jurisdiction and what this means in terms of standards.

Business processes, service level agreements and commercial contracts might not be something for standardisers per se but they might need standardisers like ETSI for standards for terms, definitions and methodology used in the context of SLAs. Some of the people who are going to come to the workshop, even from the largest companies still have issues with the Cloud because the standards at the highest level are still fuzzy. They don’t want to put all their assets in the Cloud because if for example I lost my pictures on Flickr for example, I would be very upset. If it’s your company and your customer database that is lost that’s critical and you had better make sure all these issues are covered first.

Q: What is the schedule for final standards on the Cloud from ETSI?
A: We always dream that standards will be ready next week. Unfortunately, this never happens. At the end of the day the ETSI members in our working groups decide on the schedule, based on their own need for standards. Some of these standards are ready and will be demonstrated in the Workshop. If there is consensus on technical issues, ETSI can move very quickly in publishing technical specifications and standards, a matter of weeks or months. At other times, where there are disagreements in the industry, consensus can take longer to achieve and will result in delays to standards.

Q: Anything else?
A: When you talk with industry they present Convergence as a big family picnic where everybody brings some food and it is happy day in the sunshine. Convergence is not at all that way. It is plate tectonics; it moves it crashes because there is a lot of creation of value and a lot of destruction. I think what is going to be very interesting is to see how you can enable different business models by enabling Cloud interoperability. It is not so much about the technical standards but how we are going to profile, engineer and make sure that whoever wants to be economically active in this field will have the means to do so. I preach for my own church but I do so because I believe it is the way forward.

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