While cloud computing is seen as a way to cut IT costs, the linings around Amazon, Linode, Rackspace and other providers aren’t always silver. With each added feature, each cloud becomes more proprietary, which in turn adds to the price of egress from that cloud. But that’s not the only form of lock-in, according to a new non-profit group that’s pushing for open cloud standards.

The Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) has only been publicly talking about its goals since July, but the group already has a clear vision for what it wants to become, said Sam Ramji, a member of the OCI’s board. He said the OCI isn’t specifically about standards, however.

“I think a better way to describe what we’re articulating is a set of principles. Our principles include the fact that standards matter, but more specifically it’s going to be standardization without any kind of prejudice toward implementation. We’re very much motivated by the model of the Open Source Initiative,” he said.

More specifically, Ramji said the group wants to mimic the Open Source Initiative (OSI), or, rather, to avoid the same things the OSI avoided. “What the OSI didn’t do was say, ‘This is the license.’ They instead said, ‘What are the software freedoms we feel are important?’ ” he said.

“They laid out a 10-point open-source definition. They acted as a maintainer of those principles, and that enabled the community to apply the principles to their licenses. The Apache license meets those definitions, for example.”

Thus, the OCI has been trying to define those principles for a year now, gathering information by polling users of cloud-hosting services. The initial proposed principles have been open for comment, and the OCI is currently reviewing those comments and preparing the final wording list. Once that’s complete, the OCI will measure hosting providers against these principles.

In the initial comments, one of the things the community has been concerned about is the rise of platform-as-a-service.

“We’re most concerned about things like Amazon’s OpenStack implementation,” said Ramji. “We’re starting to see even more PaaS offerings now, and if those things prevent the software applications these developers are writing from leaving their platform, then they’re unsafe at any speed. We’re concerned about infrastructure-as-a-service and PaaS offerings that treat your data like a roach motel.”

About Alex Handy

Alex Handy is the Senior Editor of Software Development Times.