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Cloud computing is a new way of delivering, consuming and producing IT resources via the Internet. Forging new standards work will only boost the potential and make the technology even more promising.

Cloud computing is quite possibly the hottest, most discussed and often misunderstood concept in information technology (IT) today. This revolutionary concept has reached unexpected heights in the last decade and is recognized by governments and private-sector organizations as major game-changing technology.

Organizations and individuals alike are keen to store and process their data in the cloud, access from anywhere applications and important information maintained in the cloud – and do this faster and at lower cost than through conventional means. Commercial enterprises and public-sector organizations are eager to gain promised efficiency and agility, while the average user desires the cloud’s ubiquity and flexibility. And, above all, everyone wants to reduce cost.

But what exactly is it? Until recently, most software programs ran on your personal computer. In simple terms, an individual ran applications on his/her personal computer and each enterprise had racks of servers to support its operations. With cloud computing, they now run on large networks of remote servers that enable the sharing of data-processing tasks, centralized storage and online access to computer services – all over the Internet. We spoke to Donald Deutsch, Chair of joint technical committee ISO/IEC JTC 1, Information technology, subcommittee SC 38, Cloud computing and distributed platforms, about just what cloud computing is, what the benefits and risks are, and how standards can help.

Donald Deutsch on how ISO/IEC standards on cloud computing help.
ISOfocus: Cloud computing is all the rage. But does the cloud really enable anything new? How does it work?

Donald Deutsch: Few technological innovations have generated as much hype, offered so much promise or been as widely and rapidly embraced as cloud computing. At the bare minimum, cloud computing is a form of IT involving the use of resources that are not owned, controlled and maintained by the single user. Rather, the resources are accessed over a network and are shared among some community of users. With cloud computing, those resources can be dynamically provisioned – if users need more computing power, more storage, or more processing capabilities

Cloud computing services may be provided by more than a single computer or even a single computing centre; users may actually be sharing resources across various, multiple and maybe even not co-located facilities

What are the advantages of using cloud computing?

Cloud computing does mean different things to different people. Depending on one’s focus, the benefits of cloud computing are to:

  • Reduce expenditure on information and communication technology by deploying and using resources in a more cost-effective way
  • Offer greater speed, computing power and capacity to individual users through the sharing of resources
  • Make computing more accessible to individuals and to organizations of all sizes
  • Increase security

The first international cloud computing standards have just been published: ISO/IEC 17788 and ISO/IEC 17789. Could you please explain how these will help?

Drawing on the knowledge of experts from over 30 countries, these standards lay down the basic terminology and architectural framework for this expanding segment.

ISO/IEC 17788, Cloud computing – Overview and vocabulary, provides definitions of common cloud computing terms, including those for cloud service categories such as Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). It also specifies the terminology for cloud deployment models such as “public” and “private” cloud. More technical in nature, ISO/IEC 17789, Cloud computing – Reference architecture, contains diagrams and descriptions of how the various aspects of cloud computing relate to one another.

What’s the next phase of the cloud? How will this impact the work of JTC 1/SC 38?

Cloud computing is a shift in the paradigm for providing IT capabilities to users that may impact a great deal of future IT products, systems and services. These first international cloud computing standards provide a sound foundation for follow-on standards as needs become clearer in this area.

Building on the ISO/IEC 17788 and ISO/IEC 17789 foundational standards, JTC 1/SC 38 working groups (WGs) are developing standards to assist providers and consumers of cloud computing technology and services:

  • WG 3 – Service level agreement
  • WG 4 – Interoperability and portability, and
  • WG 5 – Data and their flow across devices and cloud service

WG 3 experts, having completed a Committee Draft for Part 1, Overview and concepts, of the multipart standard on service agreement, are now preparing drafts for Part 2, Metrics, and Part 3, Core requirements. As for WG 4 and WG 5, established by subcommittee SC 38 in October 2014, they will hold their first meetings early in 2015. Anyone interested in participating in these work sessions should contact donald.deutsch@oracle.com or their national standards body.

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Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

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