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Before the Open Cloud Manifesto; a quite remarkable furore over a document few have seen

The entrance to Microsoft's Redmond campus
Image via Wikipedia

Open, Interoperable services in the Cloud. Sounds like a no-brainer, eh? Well over the past 24 hours or so, a plethora of blogs, mailing lists and social networks have been getting extremely agitated over some nascent efforts intended to support exactly that. And, what’s more, the vast majority of those getting most agitated haven’t even seen the document in question.

I have seen the document. I have spoken with some of the people behind it, and I even have at least one podcast discussing the Manifesto and its aspirations. But those conversations were conducted under embargo, and I respect embargoes. I’ll be releasing my formal coverage of the Manifesto when that embargo lifts next week.

I can talk about the current storm without breaching those terms, and try to cut through some of the name-calling and innuendo to shine a little light on what’s actually going on.

This all began with a blog post by Steven Martin. Steven works at Microsoft, leading to commentary suggesting that;

“Earlier today Microsoft savaged an undisclosed effort to develop an ‘Open Cloud Manifesto’”

and

“Microsoft criticizes drafting of secret ‘Cloud Manifesto’”

Microsoft is a big organisation, and one that has long held the extremely enlightened view that its employees should be allowed to express their own opinions. Steven works for Microsoft. That doesn’t necessarily mean that when he writes on his blog Microsoft is speaking, despite his relatively senior position.

Sam Johnston then joined the fray (subsequently followed by most of the big tech sites on the blogosphere, the majority of which seemed to simply take the original post at face value, attribute it to the Redmond giant, and apply a healthy dose of pro/anti-Microsoft bias to the mix in order to increase the confusion.)

Both Steven and Sam make a number of extremely valid points, but these have been buried under the Microsoft-bashing directed at Steven by some and — especially — a readily apparent history of tension between Sam and Enomaly co-founder Reuven Cohen, one of those behind the Manifesto.

Sam goes on to establish a competing effort, the ‘Cloud Computing Manifesto.’ Whilst there may be a need for such a move if the community is not served by the Open Cloud Manifesto, to divide and confuse just days before we’ll all be able to read the first public draft of the Open Cloud Manifesto and decide for ourselves seems unhelpful.

By next week, everyone will be able to read the Open Cloud Manifesto. By next week, everyone will be able to see the companies that have put their weight behind it. By next week, everyone will be able to see the companies that chose not to support it, and the companies that — whether by conspiracy or otherwise — were not invited into the founding group.

Whether we like it or not, the politics of aligning powerful and competing interests often leads inevitably to the need for conversations in back rooms, and to a process in which some are earlier to the table than others. Having been involved in the evolution of quite a number of de facto and de jure standards and specifications, I’m well aware that there are a plethora of pros and cons associated with most processes for reaching consensus. The fact that this particular effort began life as a series of quiet conversations with movers and shakers does not mean that it’s inevitably a conspiracy or an attempt to bully the community into line.

Let’s stop second guessing the motives of its instigators and the wording of the document, take a weekend to do something more important, and then show those behind the Open Cloud Manifesto the courtesy of reading their document when it’s published. At that point, if there are things to criticise, then we can do so. But equally, if there are points to support and celebrate then we must do that to.

This endless speculation and innuendo helps none of us, and I expect that I can — easily — count the commentators and stirrers who have read the document on the fingers of one hand.

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Paul Miller works at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web, providing the insights that enable you to exploit the next wave as we approach the World Wide Database.

He blogs at www.cloudofdata.com.

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