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Cloud Interoperability and Federation
Irena Bojanova
AUG 08, 2013 08:00 AM
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It's the High-Tech Wild, Wild West out there!

 Although the Cloud Computing marketplace is still chaotic, it is:

  • Exciting
  • Fast-growing
  • Full of opportunities

Is federation the future if the Cloud? IEEE CS P2302  — Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation (SIIF) — justifies the need of this project as follows: "The cloud landscape today consists of multiple independent and incompatible cloud offerings, based on both proprietary and open architectures. The growth of the Internet was facilitated by the creation of an interoperable service marketplace between Internet service consumers and Internet service providers. Clouds today do not interoperate, resulting in absolute limitations in geographical coverage, resource functionality, and resource scalability. A cloud provider may not have resources where a cloud consumer needs them; a cloud provider may not offer the type of resource needed; and a cloud provider's resources cannot be infinitely elastic. Intercloud interoperability and federation solve all these problems. This is analogous to the interconnected economy that evolved amongst telephony service providers. This facilitated the original global long distance network for voice, and more recently today's cellular world where one provider's customers can "roam" on another provider's network."

Cloud Federation

Cloud Federation is the practice of interconnecting cloud computing services (SaaS, Paas, and IaaS) of different service providers and from disparate networks. Federation of cloud resources is facilitated through network gateways that connect public, private, and/or community clouds, creating a hybrid cloud computing environment. It requires providers to wholesale or rent computing resources to other providers for the purpose of workloads balancing and accommodating spikes in demand. The main benefits for customers and providers are provided in Table 1.

Table 1. Cloud Federation Benefits.

For Cloud Federation Allows to
  • Choose best cloud services provider by flexibility, cost, and availability of services
  • Use most appropriate infrastructure environment
  • Distribute workloads around globe and move data between disparate networks
  • Earn revenue from computing resources that would otherwise be idle or underutilized
  • Expand geographic footprints and accommodate sudden spikes in demand without building new points of presence.

Federation and Interoperability are relevant in particular for data management and virtualization, as well as have aspects related to cost reduction and improved time to market. Virtualization allows for higher interoperability by making the code platform independent. Standardized formats for the data being transferred, billing, and identity management are needed for operations on transferring virtual machine images and data between providers. Some standards have already been developed, such as Open Virtualization Format (OVF); Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI).

In general, providers should offer consumers a mechanism to interoperate their data and applications among multiple cloud environments with minimal disruption. After a consumer requests transfer, a provider must be able to offer proper credentials to another provider before transfer of consumer assets can be accomplished. Once legitimacy is determined, the formats for the transferred objects must be compatible (NIST). However, particular vendors strongly express desire to perpetuate the lock-in for competition reasons.

The IEEE CS P2302 — Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation

IEEE CS P2302 — Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation (SIIF is an essential standardization effort. The standard defines topology, functions, and governance for cloud-to-cloud interoperability and federation — see Table 2.

Table 2. IEEE CS P2302 – Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation.

Topological Elements Functional Elements Governance Elements
  • Clouds
  • Roots
  • Exchanges (which mediate governance between clouds)
  • Gateways (which mediate data exchange between clouds).
  • Name spaces
  • Presences
  • Messaging
  • Resource ontologies (including standardized units of measurement)
  • Trust infrastructure.
  • Registration
  • Geo-independence
  • Trust anchor
  • Compliance and audit.

Note: The standard does not address intra-cloud (within cloud) operation, as it is cloud implementation-specific, nor does it address proprietary hybrid-cloud implementations.

The purpose of SIIF is to create an economy amongst cloud providers that is transparent to users and applications, which provides for a dynamic infrastructure that can support evolving business models. In addition to the technical issues, appropriate infrastructure for economic audit and settlement must exist. The stakeholders for SIIF are: cloud consumers, cloud service providers, cloud equipment manufacturers, cloud software developers, cloud exchange operators, cloud registration authorities, governments.

However, some questions that rise from the European Commission Expert Group Report are:

  • Would it be possible to solve the interoperability issues by agreeing on common interfaces, having in mind it impacts on different technologies, such as interfaces for SaaS, APIs for PaaS, and images for IaaS?
  • Would standardization or Open Cloud Manifesto actually solve the problem of vendor lock-in?
  • Should particular focus rest on atomic, minimal, composable and adaptable standards?
  • Would new policies and approaches to ensure convergence help achieve real interoperability rather than adding to the issue of divergence?

Ongoing research at the University of Amsterdam focuses on developing architecture and framework for dynamically provisioned and reconfigurable infrastructure services to support modern e-Science and high-technology industry applications that require both high-performance computing resources (provisioned as Grids or Clouds) and high-speed dedicated transport network. Their Intercloud Architecture (ICA) should address problems with multi-domain heterogeneous cloud based applications integration and inter-provider and inter-platform interoperability.

Anyone have thoughts or sources that will help readers understand interoperability and federation? Please share here!

Irena Bojanova

Irena Bojanova, Ph.D., is Founder and Chair of IEEE CS Cloud Computing STC, an Associate editor of IEEE Transactions on Cloud Computing, an Associate editor of International Journal of Big Data Intelligence (IJBDI), and an Editorial Board Member of IEEE CS IT Professional. She is a professor and program director, Information and Technology Systems, at University of Maryland University College, managed academic programs at Johns Hopkins University and PIsoft Ltd., and co-started OBS Ltd., (now CSC Bulgaria). Her current research interests include cloud computing, web-based systems, and educational innovations. She is a member of the IEEE and can be reached


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