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In the unlikely event of open standards in the cloud...

Cloud computing is unlikely to embrace open standards.

Open standards are good for an industry's development as they tend to create much more customer demand. In the growing cloud-computing market, standards are also critical to ensuring customers don't get locked into any particular cloud provider. Ironically, this is almost certainly why we're unlikely to see open standards widely adopted in cloud computing any time soon.

ZDNet notes that cloud-computing vendors are increasingly talking the open-standards talk. The problem is that each company, in a Prisoner's Dilemma sort of way, has an incentive to maximize lock-in of its customers while simultaneously encouraging open standards for everyone else.

The cloud-computing market, in other words, might be better off for open standards, but what's in it for me?

It's probably not realistic to expect a market leader to embrace open standards. I wouldn't, therefore, look to Salesforce.com for leadership on open standards, unless they're standards that tilt the field in its favor.

It is possible, however, that we could see a newcomer, perhaps Sun, challenge the incumbents with truly open standards. Now would be a good time, given that there is no overwhelmingly dominant cloud vendor.

I'm not suggesting that Sun has a perfect track record when it comes to open standards, but openness favors the insurgent, and Sun is a credible insurgent in the cloud-computing space, despite its heft in the server market. But be it Sun or some other company, I'm hoping a credible contender will drive truly open standards for the cloud-computing industry, or we face a few more decades of more proprietary lock-in.


Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.