Cloud Infrastructure has a new standard

I have been working for more than two years now in the DMTF working group tasked with creating a Cloud Management standard. That work has culminated in the release today of the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI) version 1.0 by the DMTF.

CIMI is a single interface that a cloud consumer can use to manage their cloud infrastructure in multiple clouds. As CIMI is adopted by the cloud vendors, no more will you need to adapt client code to each of the proprietary interfaces from these multiple vendors.

Unlike a de facto standard where typically one vendor has change control over the interface, and everyone else has to reverse engineer the inner workings of it, CIMI is a de jure standard that is under change control of a standards body. One reason the standard took two years to create is that we factored in use cases, requirements and contributed APIs from multiple vendors. These vendors have products shipping today and as a result CIMI has a strong foundation in real world experience.

What does CIMI allow?

CIMI is both a model for the resources (computing, storage networking) in the cloud as well as a RESTful protocol binding to HTTP. This means that to create a Machine (guest VM) for example, the client creates a “document” that represents the Machine resource and sends it to the server using HTTP. CIMI allows the resources to be encoded in either JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) or the eXentsible Markup Language (XML).

CIMI provides a model for the resources that can be mapped to any existing cloud infrastructure offering on the market. There are some features in CIMI that may not be supported by every cloud, but CIMI also supports the discovery of which features are implemented. This means that you can still have a client that works across multiple clouds and is able to take full advantage of the features in each of them.

Isn’t it too early for a standard?

A key feature of a successful standard is that it allows for compatible extensions to occur within the core framework of the interface itself. CIMI’s feature discovery (through metadata) is used to convey to the client that additional features that may be vendor specific have been implemented. As multiple vendors implement such features, they become candidates to add the future versions of CIMI.

Thus innovation can continue in the cloud space without being slowed down by a lowest common denominator type of specification. Since CIMI was developed in the open by dozens of stakeholders who are already implementing infrastructure clouds, I expect to CIMI being adopted by these same companies and others over the next year or two. Cloud Customers who can see the benefit of this standard should start to ask their cloud vendors to show a CIMI implementation in their roadmap.

 For more information on CIMI and the DMTF's other cloud efforts, go to: http://dmtf.org/cloud

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