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A look inside the 'Open Cloud Manifesto'

It's not slated to be released until next week, but the manifesto has found its way online. Here's what it says.

Updated 2:20 p.m. PDT, with comment from Microsoft and at 2:35 with more details on where that draft came from.

For those who want to find out what all the cloud-computing fuss is about, a copy of the Open Cloud Manifesto is now online.

After a flowery introduction, the document talks about a couple of key concepts, including the ability for data and applications from one cloud vendor to be able to be ported to another cloud vendor. It also calls for interoperability from one cloud vendor to another, as well as consistent ways to meter and monitor performance and usage.

"Without standards, the ability to bring systems back in-house or choose another cloud provider will be limited by proprietary interfaces. Once an organization builds or ports a system to use a cloud provider's offerings, bringing that system back in-house will be difficult and expensive," the manifesto states.

It ends by issuing six principles of an "Open Cloud."

1. Cloud providers must work together to ensure that the challenges to cloud adoption (security, integration, portability, interoperability, governance/management, metering/monitoring) are addressed through open collaboration and the appropriate use of standards.

2. Cloud providers must not use their market position to lock customers into their particular platforms and limiting (sic) their choice of providers.

3. Cloud providers must use and adopt existing standards wherever appropriate. The IT industry has invested heavily in existing standards and standards organizations; there is no need to duplicate or reinvent them.

4. When new standards (or adjustments to existing standards) are needed, we must be judicious and pragmatic to avoid creating too many standards. We must ensure that standards promote innovation and do not inhibit it.

5. Any community effort around the open cloud should be driven by customer needs, not merely the technical needs of cloud providers, and should be tested or verified against real customer requirements.

6. Cloud-computing standards organizations, advocacy groups, and communities should work together and stay coordinated, making sure that efforts do not conflict or overlap.

While the goals all sound laudable, it's easy to see how this might prove challenging for those with existing cloud platforms, folks like Amazon and Microsoft.

Still, the document's authors suggest that there is room for discussion.

"This document is meant to begin the conversation, not define it," the manifesto says in its conclusion. Well, it has certainly done that.

Update: I had a chance to speak Friday afternoon with Steven Martin, the senior director who wrote Microsoft's initial blog post taking issue with the manifesto and the way it was developed.

In a telephone interview, Martin didn't point to any specific clause that Microsoft disagreed with, but said there were areas whose intent the software maker would have needed to better understand before signing.

Martin said IBM approached Microsoft about joining, but only after the document was finalized and the company had already started briefing press and analysts.

"I think a reasonable person could question the motive there," he said, suggesting that the fact Microsoft was approached at all strikes him as more of a PR tactic than anything else.

That said, Martin said Microsoft would like to be a part of the dialogue. He noted that the company was subsequently invited to a meeting of some cloud-computing participants to take place on Monday as part of a cloud-computing conference.

"We have accepted that invitation and we will participate," Martin said. "If there is meaningful dialogue, it is something we will want to play a role in. Hopefully we will use that as a chance to restart that conversation."

As for the origins of that document we saw online, it was apparently posted by the Thinking Out Cloud blog.

"I received the document from four different sources and am under no obligation to keep it secret, so I am happy to publish it here for the first time," Thinking Out Cloud said on its site.