The need for a Unified Set of Cloud Computing Standards within IEEE

The recent Cloud Connect Conference in Santa Clara, CA was a very sobering experience for me.  While I knew cloud computing was way overhyped, I thought that there was one or more standardards organizations that claimed ownership.  I also thought that all the functional requirements and specifications done for grids, web services, and SOA (e.g. distributed management, federation, SLA requests and validation,etc) would not have to be re-invented and redone for clouds.  Wow, that’ll be a huge undertaking.
It’s my belief that for at least the next five years, each cloud provider will define its own set of user interfaces, SLAs, performance parameters, security methods, etc.  The more cloud providers, the more chaos and confusion will reign.
To a much lesser extent, it reminds me of my 1st experience in standards.  In 1978, each X.25 Public Packet Switched Network had its own specification, which was loosely base on the 1976 CCITT X.25 recommendation.  IBM authored a game changing paper that year, which showed it was not economically practical to build a single X.25 DTE (e.g. host computer or workstation) that would operate on more than one of the four X.25 public packet switched networks studied- Transpac (France), Datex-P (Germany), Telenet (U.S), KDD (Japan).  As a result of that paper, ANSI X3S3.7 in the U.S. and CCITT internationally worked with great urgency to complete a truly global X.25 standard (the ANSI Standard referred to the CCITT recommendation) in 1980.  I was part of that effort as both a U.S. contributor and CCITT SG VII/ WP2 secretary.  I represented the U.S. in the ITU-T as a subject matter expert till 2003 (Optical Networks was my last project there).
Maybe such an urgent, accelerated standards effort is needed for (at least) the network aspects of cloud computing, e.g. UNI and NNI, SLAs and validation/compliance.  I would’ve thought by now that the major players would’ve gotten together to create such an organization or combine several interested standards bodies/forums/alliances to make one.
While the Cloud Computing market is forecast to be very big by IDC, Gartner Group, etc, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the service delivery method.  For example, the venture capital firm, the Sand Hill Group, has concluded that cloud computing represents one of the largest new investment opportunities on the horizon. At the Cloud Connect conference, a represenative of that firm asked IBM’s VP of Cloud Services Ric Telford what he thought: “I have no problem with those numbers (40% in three years; 70% in five) as long as you include the caveat, it could be any one of five delivery models.”  So maybe we also need to define and standardize on those methods of delivering cloud applications to users,
What do readers think? Would love to hear your opinions.  Here are a few comments from conference participants:

From Kevin Walsh of UCSD:

I think that establishing a unified cloud standards framework under the auspices of a standards organization such as the IEEE deserves further discussion. (I know it would be well received by my government customer.)

Pointers below….

See –
which is covered by this ISO section –

The ACM is also in the mix with a conference planned for early June.  See
see the accepted papers thus far –

In general, I like the IEEE process, and the organization is well respective from my point of view.  Their standardization process is mature.  See

From Robert Grossman:

The url for the new IEEE Cloud Computing Standards Study Group:

I’ll send a separate note to Steve Diamond, who is coordinating it.

I am looking forward to following up with you regarding the virtual networks effort.

There is also RTF research group on virtual networks  called:
Networks Research Group (VNRG).

From Gary Mazzaferro:

I enjoyed your comments about the need for cloud standard initiatives. I”m of the same opinion and have slowly been moving towards a more collaborative initiative. The largest challenge is balancing time and funding. I have little time because of the lack of funding for the project. 🙂   I do have an idea how to make it work and gain participation by the user community

From InformationWeek:

The bigger message was that there is still much work to do in this area. With a ton of standards bodies emerging today, and vendors coming to market with their own unique APIs, it’s becoming difficult to have one voice.

If cloud is going to gain any kind of traction, let alone achieve the nirvana of the Inter-cloud, then we must have some level of standards in place to make it happen. As we’ve seen historically, not having standards in place has created challenges around interoperability, as well as vendor lock-in. The value proposition around cloud computing is negated if interoperability is not possible. It’s as simple as that. No ifs, ands, or buts.

NIST, a federal agency that has been instrumental in defining cloud computing, will take on an additional role as a central publisher of cloud use cases accompanied by a recommended reference technology implementation. “But the airing of strong use cases where a technology set is deemed suitable for a particular problem could lead to a specification for a standard, a NIST representative at the Cloud Connect show in Santa Clara, Calif., said Wednesday in an interview.”

Please feel free to leave a comment below or email me and I’ll include it

[email protected]

Here is a link to view what others have written about the Cloud Connect Conference I attended in Santa Clara, CA:

IDC Market Forecasts for Mobile Broadband and LTE

At the March 10th IDC 2010 Directions Conference in Santa Clara, IDC analysts Amy Lind and Carrie MacGillivray predicted a 32% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for global mobile broadband connections, which were projected fo reach over 350M by 2013.  [We wonder if those include M2M connections, which are potentially much larger than human held device connections].

More significantly, LTE was predicted to have a CAGR of 471%, with 2012 (and later for some countries) as the critical inflection point for LTE mass adoption.  The technology was said to: offer improved capacity, full mobility (vs “mobile” WiMAX portability), be Initially oriented toward PCs  with pricing In flux as operators continue to rethink their business models.  

By 2013, IDC predicts:

  • Mobile broadband will be ubiquitous and the defacto way of communicating
  • Business models will be focused on revenues per subscriber or device   
  • Global mobile services spending will surpass $975 billion
  • Iconic 4G devices will be critical to success

The two IDC analysts offered their essential guidance to session attendees:

  • Wireless carriers should place emphasis on data services, which are essential for revenue growth.  
  • Detailed market segmentation is required to focus devices (and apps) on relevant audiences.  To achieve this objective, IDC believes that wireless network operators will deepen partnerships with device and application vendors (AT&T and Clearwire are already doing this now).
  • Integration key to staving off wireless displacement and driving mobile broadband adoption

In a separate presentation, IDC Research Manager Godfrey Chua was very optimistic about LTE.  This author was stunned to hear Mr. Chua predict that LTE infrastructure equipment sales would overtake all WiMAX infrastructure sales by 4G 2011!  That’s less than 18 months from now!   According to Mr. Chua, both AT&T and VZW are looking to LTE to effectively deliver high quality mobile broadband service at the lowest cost per bit possible (through the more cost efficient OFDM based modulation and multi-carrier transport).  He sees 2012-2013 as the LTE market inflection point, which is consistent with the opinion of other IDC Analysts.  Why have all the major global cellular operators made such an early committment to LTE?  Here are a few reasons given: 

  • To deliver high quality mobile broadband at the lowest cost per bit
  • To relieve 3G capacity pressure by migrating laptop users to LTE
  • To create a more robust platform for applications and services –that lead to new business models and therefore revenue streams         

Godfrey next compared the rationale and position of LTE (vs WiMAX):

  • To address capacity pressure in 3G networks (vs WiMAX to address underserved broadband connectivity demand)
  • Full mobility is the value proposition (vs WiMAX portablity of netbooks/notebook access)
  • Geared towards developed markets (vs WiMAX orientation toward emerging markets)
  • Relevance to emerging markets not until 2015 (vs WiMAX being always relevent to emerging markets)                                 

2010 will be a critical year for LTE network equipment companies as they all seek to build momentum. in the forthcoming global market.  Mr. Chua sees Ericsson and Huawei as early leaders in providing LTE gear.  He says that Alcatel – Lucent’s Verizon Wireless win is key, but now they must convert trials into contracts.  Meanwhile, Nokia Siemens Networks is  looking to maintain relevance in LTE.  The competitive pressure will surely intensify as other players –Motorola, ZTE, NEC and Fujitsu –seek to up the competitive ante. 

In closing, Godfrey offered the following essential guidance: 

  • Realization of the long-held vision for the network is near
  • Mobile data traffic will continue to explode
  • Network transformation is critical, it is key to remaining competitive
  • Green efforts will persist, it goes hand in hand with the transformation process
  • Vendor positions will continue to shift

Some additional predictions from IDC Analysts:

John Gantz, Chief Research Analyst: 

-By the end of 2010, there will be 1B mobile Internet users and 500K mobile phone apps.   1.2 billion mobile
phones will be sold; 220 million smart phones.  630 million laptops in place; 80 million netbooks. 

–There will be many intellgent devices communicating with machines/computers.  M3M is a potential high growth area.

-Complexity will increase 10X in the next 10 years

-By 2020, there will be 31B connected devices, 2.6 billion phones, 25M apps, 450B interactions per day, 1.3T tags/sensors

Rick Nicholson, Vice President, IDC Energy Insights:

Workshop Report: Clearwire on track with rollouts and app tools, but MSO partners struggle with Business Models

Disclaimer: Unlike many “would be journalists” that are either always negative on WiMAX, or are perennial Pollyannas that produce an endless stream of recycled “happy talk,” this author tries to be balanced and objective of WiMAX in general and the WiMAX events covered in particular. We have been covering WiMAX for over 6 years now, with more than 200 published articles on that technology.  This author has no business relationships with Clearwire or any other WiMAX related company or entity. Please read on……


Clearwire briefed potential application developers at a well attended CLEAR Developer workshop in Santa Clara, CA on March 2, 2010. The key sessions were Upcoming 4G WiMAX APIs and Tools, The 4G WiMAX Business Opportunity for Developers, and the wrap up session revealing where Clearwire is now and where they’re going. You can find all the Sessions and speakers here.

We will skip the discussion of WiMAX APIs and Tools, which was already covered in detail at the Feb 10th IEEE ComSoc SCV meeting (you can access the slides at:

Nonetheless, we noticed a lot of keen interest amongst developers who were accessing Clearwire’s Silicon Valley 4G Innovation Network using 4G USB sticks attached to their notebook PCs. It seems indoor coveraged worked fine in the Santa Clara Convention Center, where the workshop was held.

However, we were quite disappointed that neither Comcast or TW Cable had any new services to tell us about, despite the video content and managed networks they each own. More about this later in the article.

The Wholesale Opportunity

Clearwire (CLRW) was said to own more licensed spectrum in major cities than any other wireless network operator. Their “4G”+ network, known as CLEAR, is now covering more than 34 million points of presence (POPs) as of 4Q-2009. It’s also commercially available in 28 different U.S. cities including Seattle, Honolulu and Maui. CLRW plans to build out their mobile WiMAX network to reach 120 million POPs by end of 2010. They’ll have launched CLEAR service in most major U.S. cities by the end of the year including New York, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Kansas City and Washington, DC. By this time next year, the CLEAR network will stretch from coast to coast and cover all the major U.S. cities.

In addition to selling “4G” fixed and mobile wireless broadband Internet access, Clearwire has MVNO (wholesale) agreeements with three of their large investors –Sprint, Comcast, TW Cable– who are reselling the service under their respective brand names. These partners were said to have a combined customer base of approximately 75M subscribers and their well known brand names would help the combined entities achieve a critical mass of customers much quicker than if only Clearwire was selling WiMAX services. Wholesale resellers will also drive WiMAX ecosystem development and investment, according to Randy Dunbar, Vice President, Wholesale Marketing & Strategy, Clearwire.

Mr. Dunbar told the audience that Clearwire will be signing up more MVNO resellers in the near future. These may include companies involved in: consumer electronics, retailers, CLECs, pre-paid/targeted market segments, smart grid and M2M (least understood by Clearwire, but with tremendous potential). The new resellers will help Mobile WiMAX deployment in diverse market segments such as: mobile consumer, home entertainment, power Internet user, SOHO, small business, large enterprise, vertical business’, road warriors (business travellers).

Currently, there is only one known hand held device available for CLEAR -the Samsung Modi. “4G” access is currently obtained using an external USB modem or “dongle,” embedded WiMAX in a PC, or a “personal” WiFi hotspot (many of which require an external USB dongle to access the WiMAX network). But Mr. Dunbar said that a “range of connected devices” are coming for CLEAR. These devices include: smart phones, STBs, DVR, mobile modems, MIDs, Consumer Electronics gadgets (such as portable media players). Randy hit my hot button when he stated that programmed video and time/place shifted video would be delivered via the 4G CLEAR network (see next section of this article).

+ IEEE 802.16e-2005 based Mobile WiMAX (being deployed by Clearwire and partners) is actually 3G according to the ITU-R;   IEEE 802.16m will be the 4G version of mobile WiMAX, but Clearwire has not committed to that yet.

Cable (MSO) MVNOs reselling Clearwire’s mobile WiMAX network

Comcast, the largest MSO in the U.S., resells the CLEAR network as “Hi Speed to Go.” It’s branded mobile WiMAX service is available in Portland, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle/Bellingham area. Katie Graham, Director, Wireless Business Development said there were two ways mobile WiMAX could be purchased from Comcast:

  • Fast pack: Cable Internet (home access) bundled with High Speed to Go
  • Bolt on: 4G mobile WiMAX only or 3G/4G (using Sprint’s EVDO network for 3G)

A free WiFi router is included with a Hi Speed to Go subscription. More details on the Comcast mobile WiMAX service is at:

TW Cable has been completely spun off from Time Warner as a separate company (which means they don’t own any video content). Their CEO had recently stated that high speed Internet was replacing video as the firm’s core product. TW Cable currently serves 14.6M customers in 28 states. They claim to be the third largest broadband ISP in the U.S. with 9M subscribers. Brian Coughlin, Manager, Wireless Platforms for TW Cable told the audience that data oriented wireless products and services would be first priority for the company, with voice and mobile phones later. Brian stated that “Digtial media and service must be adaptable” and that an ecosystem would be required for this. I took this to mean that digital media and video services needed to be able to adapt to broadband access via mobile WiMAX, but I was wrong (see below for the reason).

The two MSO behemoths were asked by this author why they haven’t offered any premium video services or VoD over mobile WiMAX and they appeared to be stumped. Some of the explanations given were:

“The technology is ahead of the business models.”  Clearwire

“The industry hasn’t figured out how to monetize the video applications.”  TW Cable and Clearwire

“It’s definitely on our radar screen, but we don’t have anything we can announce at this time.”  TW Cable

“Digital content rights are based on a given device, not on a service.”  Comcast

We were preplexed by these statements. In particular, we do not understand why Comcast can offer On Demand Digital Video* over their managed network and cable Internet service, but not over mobile WiMAX.

* For details on Comcast On Demand On line service please visit:

Kittar Nagesh, Service Provider Marketing Manager at Cisco also participated in this panel. He made three statements I thought were very important:

  • “Video will be 66% of mobile video traffic by 2013.”
  • “The spectrum Clearwire owns is remarkably important. It’s important to make use of the spectrum (a wireless network operator) you have. It doesn’t matter if it’s used for WiMAX or LTE.”
  • “M2M applications will be phenomenally important. It will be an inflection point (for the broadband wireless industry). Innovation will explode in an unbounded fashion.”

Shortly after this event, Cisco withdrew from the WiMAX RAN equipment market. They had been selling WiMAX base stations (from the Navini acquisitiion), but they now think there are better opportunities in the mobile packet core via their acquisition of Starent Networks).

Wrap Up Session: Clearwire now and in the near future

Dow Draper, Clearwire Vice President for Product Development and Innovation, told the audience that the average Clearwire customer is using 7G bytes of downloaded data per month — a number that Clearwire only expects to increase over time. That compares with an average 3G data card download of 1.4G bytes/month and an iPhone 3G average download of 200 M bytes/month.

Mr. Draper also said that the S.F. Bay Area can expect commercial WiMAX service by “late 2010,” and that “multiple smart phones” would be running on the Clearwire network before year’s end. Dow also hinted at other upcoming devices for CLEAR: MIDs, Portable Media Players (PMPs), tablets and embedded devices. He distinguished between category 1 devices which are tested and sold by Clearwire and category 2 devices which are sold through channels (and presumably retail stores).

“Clearwire will support multiple Operating Systems, especially Android,” said Mr. Draper. In summing up he said that thrid party developers, differentated devices, services, and applications are all critical in attracting customers for Clearwire and their MVNO resellers. While we completely agree with that statement, we think that the devices need to come to market very quickly (they’ve been promised for quite some time by Intel but haven’t materialized). But even more important are the differentiated services, such as video- either for entertainment, education, or surveillance.

Next Clearwire workshop:

4-G WiMAX Developers Symposium, Jun 15 10:00AM to 5:00PM Stanford University

Topics Include:

  • The latest on 4G WiMAX API’s and tools
  • 4G WiMAX 101 basics for developers & network and device architects
  • Market opportunities for 4G developers with symposium sponsors: Clear, Time Warner Cable, Sprint, Intel, Comcast, Cisco
  • Business sessions from leading 4G industry executives
  • 4G trends and forecasts
  • Open discussion on the future of mobile internet innovation

Details at: