Telcos Eye the Cloud

The TM Forum, a standards organization that’s active in the service provider community, today made its pitch to develop standards for cloud best practices and interoperability among all cloud providers and users. The forum has created an Enterprise Cloud Buyers Council that currently consists of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Deutsche Bank and some major server vendors and telco equipment providers but few cloud brand names like Rackspace (s rax) and Amazon (s amzn) .

While demand for cloud standards is rampant, the setting of those specifications could prove a contentious issue. Recall the fiasco that was IBM’s ( s ibm) Open Cloud Manifesto and the relatively mild document that resulted from that process. Eric Pulier, executive director of the ECBC, said today in a press conference that the forum’s efforts would be complimentary to any endeavors already in place to develop open standards for the cloud.

However, the idea of open clouds is a contentious one for a reason. Many cloud providers, starting with Amazon, already provide access to their clouds using APIs that developers can use to build platforms to orchestrate data. Thus, platforms such as RightScale, Heroku, Elastra and others have formed to act as a bridge between clouds or to sit on top of them to make life easier for developers.

IBM has told me its version of openness requires a set of standards created through an open standards-setting process, which is what the TM Forum appears to be trying. Russ Daniels at HP (s hpq) has explained how he believes clouds are already open in that they work using basic web protocols. Meanwhile, Amazon has historically shied away from such open standard efforts, and right now, it uses REST or SOAP standards to access its services.

However, as larger vendors such as Savvis ( svvs), AT&T (s T), Fujitsu and others pile into offering some type of infrastructure as a service, or even platforms as a service, figuring out how to move data from one cloud to another, and from private clouds to public ones is an issue. By getting the TM Forum involved,  a group used to working with vendors and service providers to wrestle tough software standards destined to benefit the enterprise, the cloud providers could move quickly out of the realm of offering cheap infrastructure for startups and into providing enterprise-class services.