Cloud computing has changed the way we store data and run applications. But even after so many technology changes, interoperability is still non-existingt in cloud computing space. We generally use interoperability in very looses sense, in fact it's all around us! When we use an application on multiple OS, we are using interoperability, for example. In essence interoperability is ability of diverse systems and firms to work together.
Interoperability can be at different levels for example, standards such as that of XML, SQL are example of syntactic interoperability. Further, it can mean different to different people, for example, for a user interoperability can mean ability to use same application on any platform for a provider it may mean using specific standards while making those applications to ensure interoperability.
What does interoperability mean for cloud computing?
In most basic terms it means that a customer can change from one cloud operator to another seamlessly – all his applications and data should work as it with previous one. This is much like when we can view the same website (which is developed using standard website rules) in any browser one likes – firefox, chorme, IE,Opera , etc. In cloud terms, if you are on Amazon right now, with little effort you should be able to store data and run applications on another cloud provider say, Rackspace or Savvis.
What interoperability would also mean that based on requirements, a customer would be able to shift from private to public or vice versa. This would be a significant, as then based on decreasing and increasing computing requirements one can shift to best suited type of cloud.
Another way of looking at interoperability of cloud is ability of applications, running on different clouds to talk to each other and share data / results. This of course requires development of common standards, which as of now are not available.
Another way of looking cloud interoperability from user perspective is possibility of using same management tools / interface / images across various cloud platforms. Thus the front end application remains unchanged.
Cloud computing interoperability – key challenges
Well, as of now interoperability is far off for cloud computing and there are several reasons for the same, two key ones are discussed below:
Implementation of cloud : One of the basic problem with cloud interoperability is that every cloud operator has its own security models, networking models, security standards, processes, hypervisors, licenses, etc. In a nutshell, two cloud providers almost never implement cloud in same manner. Thus if a customer wants to seamlessly move across two providers, all these have to fall in place first. This is very unlikely.
Low motivation to have common standards with cloud providers : Today, every cloud provider has its own enhancements to offer better services. They can be in terms of security, services, storage or any other kind. These are the key aspects through which cloud providers differentiate themselves. If there is a common standard / similar models to ensure interoperability, then the possibility to command higher prices will be lost. This is because, cloud service will then be like a commodity, with little differentiation. Thus cloud providers themselves do not want to push for interoperability. There is lot of innovation going in the space and this may as well hamper its progress.
What's in store for cloud computing interoperability in future?
Experts believe that if cloud interoperability has to take off, third party vendors would be playing a very important role. The way they see it is – if cloud has proper APIs, these third party vendors can build systems around them to ensure they become interoperable. If this takes off, this will open a whole new opportunity for third part vendors for business.
Experts also believe that if large firms start adopting hybrid cloud, it will for sure provide a push for interoperability. Using hybrid clouds will require them to use private and public clouds efficiently, thus needing both power of interoperability.
Summing it all up ..
Almost everyone believes that interoperability will come to cloud sooner or later, one does not the time and also how it will unfold. It is for sure that interoperability will not only help customers but will also open new business opportunities around cloud computing space.