SUNNYVALE, CALIF. — So you are moving critical services to the cloud. Perhaps a few terabytes in Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). Customer data and applications in Hosted VMware virtual machines at Rackspace. Virtual Windows servers and instances on Microsoft’s Windows Azure.

Moving from proof-of-concept trials to significant deployments means questions:
• How are you going to connect end users, including mobile devices, to those cloud applications?
• How are you going to tie on-premise servers and applications to cloud services?
• How are you going to link disparate cloud services with each other without routing back through your data center?
• How will you bridge the boundaries between public and private clouds?
• How are you going to build applications that use multiple APIs from different cloud hosts?
• How will you interface with multitenant programs running on application service providers?
• How will you secure not only the cloud applications, but the linkages?
• How will you define, write and measure service-level agreements?
• How will you improve on the instability of cloud communications over the public Internet?
• How can you create interoperability and portability of services so you can increase redundancy?

Enterprises solve some of these problems by working with their cloud hosts and their Internet service providers to provision direct pipes from an on-premise data center directly to the cloud. For example, linking directly to Amazon AWS. That’s good, because it removes the uncertainty of the public Internet, but it doesn’t help solve the problem of creating heterogeneous applications that rely upon different cloud providers. It certainly doesn’t make applications or virtual services portable.

A new organization trying to solve this problem is the Cloud Ethernet Forum. The CEF, formed in May 2013, is bringing together cloud vendors, data center hosts and WAN services providers, along with equipment makers—all of whom are trying to create standards that enable portability and peering within and between cloud applications.

Currently, the CEF members are Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya, Ciena, Citrix, CoreSite, Cyan, Ericsson, Equinix, HP, Huawei, Juniper, PCCW Global, Spirent, Telx, Tata Communications, Verizon and Wedge Networks.

At a planning meeting for the CEF, held here in on Feb. 19, the group explained that its vision will include a reference architecture to be unveiled this spring. It’s too early to know exactly what will be in the reference architecture, but the buzzword thrown around is “VASPA”:
• Virtualization of network connections across the wide area using virtual private networks
• Automation of cloud functions, including creating, managing and tearing down connections
• Security must be baked in so that connections and data can flow across and between data centers and different cloud hosts and applications
• Programmability, in the form of APIs, should be able to provision the cloud’s connectivity and capacity, and reach both your in-house applications and hosted applications
• Analytics: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, and so it’s important to deliver not only statistics about bits, bytes and bandwidth, but also functionality

When we look at the pervasiveness of cloud computing, and of the enterprise movement toward the DevOps model of deployment, we need to be thinking on a large scale. The cloud is more than choosing to load up a virtual hosted server instead of a physical server; it’s a new way of thinking, and a new way of connecting.

Do your applications utilize multiple cloud services and service providers? Write me at

Alan Zeichick, founding editor of SD Times, is principal analyst of Camden Associates.