Championing an Open Environment

The quest for interoperability isn’t new. It began back in the early days of the World Wide Web and e-commerce. In that not-too-distant past, companies made a choice to either stay with proprietary systems or embrace open standards and open source interoperability by using HTTP, XML and Apache source code. IBM chose the latter. The result is a thriving Internet and e-commerce system. “The ability to do e-commerce on the Web or your mobile device would not have happened as fast if a single vendor or multiple vendors were fighting over standards,” Diaz says. Using open source and open standards allows businesses to focus on delivering value to their customers, according to Diaz.

Fostering a Truly Open Environment

Interoperability is contingent on a truly open environment. It’s important to define and understand exactly what that means. “Organizations call things open that aren’t open,” Diaz says. When a company puts out a piece of code and says it’s open, Diaz cautions that a few questions need to be asked:

  • What are the terms of using that code?
  • Are you allowed to actually use the code or is it just open for you to view it?
  • What guarantees exist that the code will be supported?
  • What happens if one vendor controls the code and later decides to no longer make it open?

Another consideration revolves around how the technology is governed. Is it governed by a group of people or does a single vendor control the code? If the code is covered by the Apache license and governed by a group, then it is truly open, Diaz says.

In addition to the OpenStack Foundation, IBM is working to foster open standards and cloud through the Cloud Standards Customer Council, the Organization for the Advancement of Structure Information Standards (OASIS) and its Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) committee. OASIS is developing the TOSCA standard, which has the support of vendors and is moving into interoperability phases, according to Diaz. TOSCA will allow clients “to have portable workloads, not just images, move around your cloud. That will give you a level of control and interoperability that isn’t possible at the image level,” he adds. TOSCA will benefit IBM’s business partners, allowing them to plug into a cloud environment and to code only once instead of multiple times for proprietary cloud formats.

IBM adds high-value business on top of open standards. The company recently introduced SmartCloud Orchestrator, which removes the need to create specific interfaces for various cloud services, helping to simplify clients’ startup. SmartCloud Orchestrator enables clients to deploy cloud services using compute, storage and network resources. SmartCloud Orchestrator ships with OpenStack software.

In the fast-paced business world, speed to delivery remains extremely important. Clients expect an application to be up and running days or weeks after it’s requested, Diaz says. To help teams develop applications faster, IBM is actively backing standards for development automation, reducing development time dramatically. Clients will be able to “serve their business better and, ultimately, their clients better,” he adds.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at

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