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What is the Cloud Industry Forum? An Interview with its Chairman, Andy Burton

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Cloud Industry Forum

The Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) was established in 2009 to provide transparency through certification to a Code of Practice for credible online Cloud service providers, and to assist end users in determining core information necessary to enable them to adopt these services.

Andy Burton is Chairman of the Cloud Industry Forum.

CTC: Welcome Andy, why did you form the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF)?

AB: Because there was (and is) so much hype and vendor led messaging, and because the primary point of information is online it is very difficult for credible service providers to stand out from the marketing ‘noise’ and for end users to find a trusted party to rely on for impartial advice. It was clear that formal Standards were some way off, but industry led best practice could help facilitate education and operational standards in the meantime.

CIF absolutely fills that need, we are a not-for-profit industry body that carries out research on cloud computing, educates end users on the key issues and opportunities around cloud solutions and champions best practice among professional cloud service providers.

CTC: What is your definition of Cloud Computing?

AB: How long have you got? In short there is no “universal cloud”. Cloud computing is effectively a means of accessing IT as a service wherever you have internet access and through whatever device you access it. It is scalable (up and down) and typically charged on a consumption based pricing model, where (like mobile phones) you can get better rates if you subscribe to higher volume or longer commitment.

Cloud operates on two levels, namely Service Models and Deployment Models. Service models (as in “as-a-service”) determine how managed you want the solution – do you want infrastructure to build a solution, or a platform which includes the notion of operating system built in and reduces the complexity of infrastructure management), or do you want the whole application (or software) served? Deployment models are to do with notions of shared or dedicated infrastructure and deal with the poles of privacy and collaboration. Private clouds are restricted to one organisation, public clouds are a shared platform that offers a price point for a more standardised experience (much like SaaS does at an application level) and Hybrid clouds enable public and/or private clouds to inter-operate at a community level for common activities.

CTC: How have your initial goals changed or adapted from your original goals?

AB: In the first year or two our focus was on educating the Cloud Service Provider market and establishing the Certification scheme for the Code of Practice. Now that has been up and running for a year, our focus has broadened to ensure end users, especially buyers, are aware of the Code of Practice and encouraging them to look for the Certification mark as it ensures those Service providers will provide clear information about their organisation and capabilities in a common format that enables end users to make rational comparison between certified vendors and therefore assist an informed decision.

CTC: Is the Cloud Industry Forum targeted towards larger cloud providers?

AB: Not in any way. It is not a cartel, there are no barriers to entry other than an intent to act professionally. Cloud is transforming the industry and enables new talent to shine and prosper, but standing out in the crowd can be a challenge so the Code of Practice becomes a clear sign of the CSP’s commitment to operating in a transparent (and trusted) manner.

CTC: What do you offer smaller cloud providers who deliver a good service but may not have large budgets?

AB: Small companies pay a much lower fee to participate in the scheme than larger companies keeping the philosophy in line with cloud pricing in the industry. The challenge is in making sure the company can document and certify the information that we believe is essential to provide confidence to a prospective buyer. In fact right now, we are actively helping smaller CSP’s to get through the process by providing free guidance and support in achieving the obligations of the Code of Practice.

CTC: Do you view hosted telephony providers as Cloud Computing providers and do you intend to reach out to this market segment?

AB: There are many markets that are converging in the cloud space, most notably from the ISV (software producer), Telco’s, Network operators and the managed service and outsourcing markets. They all bring unique skills as the challenge in delivering IT as a service is you need good IT operations, good comms capability (data and voice) and a service ethos. So in short, yes hosted telephony is in that definition, and yes we intend to reach them. We actively partner with Comms Business magazine to share our thoughts to this market area.

CTC: As a not for profit organisation where do you spend the capital raised from members?

AB: Money raised from Membership is invested in research, white papers, educational events and promoting the code of practice. Funds raised from the Code of Practice Certification are invested in administering the scheme and ensuring effective governance and integrity.

CTC: Are your certification and membership programs open to non UK vendors and suppliers?

AB: Yes they are – cloud has no international barriers, nor does our Certification scheme. That said we require participants to declare their scope of coverage and make clear issues like data centre locations and the ability for customers to determine data sovereignty etc. Whilst we are physically based in the UK we have relationships with Alliance partners that endorse our Code of Practice like EuroCloud and the Cloud Security Alliance operating across Europe and in the US respectively. We are shortly to launch our US presence.

CTC: Is there any recourse for end-users who have a complaint about the service or performance of one of your suppliers?

AB: Absolutely, we have an independent Governance Board made up of lawyers, end users, industry vendors and independent experts. It presides over the evolution of the Code of Practice, and hears any complaints about organisations that are believed to have breached their Certification.

CTC: What are the goals for the Cloud Industry Forum in 2012?

AB: The Primary goals for CIF in 2012 are two-fold:

1. To ensure that the Code of Practice Certification is introduced as a gating criteria all buyers RFQ’s and ITT’s when they are investigating suppliers for cloud services. The more users ask for Certification the more vendors will see value in demonstrating transparency, capability and accountability for cloud services!

2. To increase the level of awareness of cloud computing among end users and to enable them to determine if and when any IT services they require should be operated as a cloud service.

CTC: Finally, what are the 3 main things in your opinion any company should consider before adopting subscribing or purchasing a cloud computing service?

AB: 1. Know your restrictions: Issues like regulation, legacy architectures, and degrees of integration between apps that will shape the Deployment and/or Service Models that may be relevant to your organisation. For further information view our white papers at www.cloudindustryforum.org

2. Know your potential suppliers: Look for CIF certification, if you can’t find it apply the same principles by following the advice of white paper 6 which you can also find on www.cloudindustryforum.org

3. Review the contract: All laws are not equal and all contracts are not balanced. See our advice in White Paper 3 from the same website.

CTC: Thanks Andy!