The Evolution of Standards in Hybrid Cloud Environments

Standards are established common and repeatable practices that have been agreed upon by a business or group. Standards in a hybrid cloud environment are a work in progress, but they’re important because they help you improve quality, reduce cost, and improve choices.

An open standard is one which is publically available (typically for free) and has rights surrounding it on how it can be used. Typically, different vendors, groups, and end users collaborate to develop standards based on the broad expertise of a large number of stakeholders. Organizations can leverage these standards as a common foundation and build on top of them.

Without standards, moving your infrastructure or applications from one cloud provider to another, or from on-premises to a public or private cloud, would be a difficult prospect that could slow an organization’s development. Integrating your on-premises data center in a hybrid model would be difficult. Standards also help to ensure security and prevent vendor lock-in. All of these issues are key in a hybrid cloud environment.

Standards have generally been established in four ways:

  • Multi-national bodies. These are typically governed by treaties or other similar international legal agreements. These groups have long procedures and red tape before agreement is reached. Members might be diplomats instead of technical experts. The International Organization for Standards (ISO) is one such group. It comprises representatives from countries all over the world. ISO has developed over 17,500 standards covering many subject areas, and new standards are developed every year.

  • Industry consortiums. Standards are developed when multiple players in an industry come together. Even though the members might be competitors, they know that coming together will help everyone. These groups are often more streamlined and agile than international bodies and often directly engage technical experts in the process. The Open Group, Open Grid Forum, and OASIS are some examples of industry consortiums.

  • An ad hoc group. Ad hoc groups are self-organized and -governed. These groups are often built around open source initiatives. They can be a loose body that discusses their matters through an Internet message board, or they might be more formally organized. These groups have even fewer processes in place than industry consortiums and are therefore able to quickly adapt and change as technology moves. A downside to the lower process overhead is that, when difficult decisions need to be made or problems arise, getting to the correct solution and reaching a consensus might be difficult or impossible.

  • De facto standards. A de facto standard emerges when an approach or product is used so extensively that it becomes a standard. The important distinction is that a de facto standard is not created by a specific body or organization, but instead develops through practice. Often, these de facto standards emerge when industry best practices converge.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), standards can be categorized based on their level of maturity:

  • None

  • Under development

  • Approved

  • A reference

  • Market accepted (in widespread use)

  • Retired

Some standards organizations require two implementations of a standard before it can be accepted, which, needless to say, takes time and accounts for why de facto standards often become standards. In new technology environments, the philosophy is often to innovate now and standardize later.

In fast-paced IT environments, developers may implement nonstandard features to get a job done quickly. They leave the problems of implementing nonstandard components for another day or let somebody else deal with them.

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