On July 25, 2017, two major bodies in the standards world agreed to a collaboration that would set a joint standard for inter-cloud interoperability. The IEEE, an OpenStand affirming partner, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will work together on this collaboration, potentially increasing the possibility of a vendor-neutral means of moving from one proprietary cloud system to another.

According to one article on the pairing, that possibility “may be made easier after the backers of the Open Container Initiative reached agreement on an OCI 1.0 specification for a container format and container runtime environment. The initiative includes the major vendors of container tools, engines and deployment systems.”

Most of today’s internet giants such as Google, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, use proprietary APIs and virtual machine formats. As such, moving workloads from, for example Google to Microsoft can be difficult. In the past, even attempting to do so would be impossible. However, today these difficulties have lessened and are currently easier to navigate than ever before.

“There is a growing recognition that the lack of cloud federation in a landscape of multiple independent cloud providers is limiting the service reach, resources and scalability that can be offered in a rapidly expanding marketplace,” said Bob Bohn, chair of the IEEE Intercloud Working Group. The group is already working on SIIF or Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation. The standard is also known by the designation IEEE P2302.

The IEEE understands that having an open internet framework to allow workloads to move from one cloud to another would be extremely beneficial. It could, according to Bohn, “have the same beneficial effect as the Internet had on information sharing and ecommerce, he suggested.”

These cloud providers would need to agree on ways to make their systems recognizable to each other for this to succeed. A common system of trust, cooperation, adherence and transparency would be key.

The IEEE and NIST pairing up to drive this cloud openness forward is a key first step in creating just those systems.