A key factor in the success of the MEF was when they brought the service providers on board to join the collaboration, rather than remaining a consortium of box sellers. In the case of cloud services there are even more stakeholders to be considered: equipment vendors, service providers and carriers, as well as the giant data centre operators like Amazon, Microsoft and Google that currently dominate the cloud, plus a growing number of OTT companies like Netflix, Skype and What's App that rent inexpensive, flexible and fungible infrastructure from the operators and do business without the CapEx burden that a carrier takes on. These OTT services may not yet be directly competing with service providers, but things could change if providers simply try to copy their successful business models rather than build on their own unique resources that include an established customer base and extensive infrastructure. If every mobile, compute or storage application has the potential to become a cloud service, then service providers need to be alert.
Is it enough to be simply looking for new business models? Analysing the successes of FaceBook, YouTube, eBay, Amazon, Google, NetFlix, Skype and their ilk teaches us a lot about the many individual and diverse ways the cloud can serve as a new business environment. But would it be better in the long term to ask not how the cloud CAN work, but rather how it SHOULD work, as a global concept? Ethernet deployment is getting faster with CE 2.0, but it can still take weeks, whereas services can be deployed instantly.
The MEF did not stop at asking "what might we be able to do with Ethernet?" but went on to ask "what characteristics should Ethernet have if it is to migrate to the WAN and become the world's transport of choice?" The way forward for the cloud should be similar. Cloud services need a robust and secure connectivity layer - can that be deployed at cloud speeds? Carrier Ethernet is fast but the cloud's virtual machine population runs into millions.
The technology stream - Cloud stakeholders including leading Cloud Service Providers, Datacenter Operators, Cloud solution providers, equipment manufacturers and major enterprises are already getting together in the CEF to create common, global standards for the cloud. This will do much to build public and business confidence and reduce the delays that go with making choices. Remember that, for all the hype and apparent success of cloud computing, there is still an overwhelming majority of business out there that does not yet feel able to trust the cloud.
But what if the giant OTT providers don't join in this process? They could find themselves side-lined to their own cloud island - albeit a very big one - while the rest of the world moves to shared standards. Better by far to be part of the CEF, sharing what has already been learned in order to accelerate cloud development for everyone. Just as FaceBook's contribution to the Open Compute project aims to make the pie bigger for all, rather than grabbing for the biggest slice of a small pie, so the development of new global cloud standards will create an unlimited business opportunity for everyone.
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