Tool generates RFP-speak for cloud tenders

Open Data Center Alliance releases set of 'common language' for inclusion in requests for proposals

Seeking to improve alignment between the ways various providers and users talk about cloud computing, the Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA) – an international alliance of more than 300 companies - has released sets of “common language” for inclusion in requests for proposal.

“The Open Data Center Alliance was created to help make cloud and IT purchasing decisions easier, by ensuring everyone is speaking the same language and applying the right standards,” says board member Mario Müller, vice-president of IT infrastructure at the BMW vehicle manufacturing group.

The new tool was revealed at an ODCA board meeting in Melbourne earlier this month and builds on several of the cloud usage models developed by the alliance to codify the highest priority needs seen by its members. The RFP language initially released applies to provider security assurance, legal and regulatory compliance monitoring, virtual machine interoperability, deployment and management, input-output controls and evaluation of the carbon footprint of cloud-based operations.

The codifying of language is assisted by digital tools which allow users putting together an RFP to generate the verbiage for the aspects they want to specify strictly, by simply ticking boxes and making other straightforward choices on screen. This wording can then be integrated into the RFP document.

“The publication of RFP language and computer-aided tools help speed adoption of cloud solutions based on alliance requirements,” Müller says. “These new tools will make the decision process smoother and easier for members.”

At the same time, the National Australia Bank, parent of the BNZ, has announced that it will be taking the lead in proof-of-concept trials of the ODCA provider security assurance model. More such exercises are expected during this year to improve confidence in the models and facilitate their deployment.

There are a number of reasons for taking a role in proving the concept of cloud provider security assurance, says NAB CIO Adam Bennett. “One I think we all recognise: cloud is emerging as a force in technology across many [application fields],” he says. “It’s very seldom you get a chance to get in at ground level and shape how something as important as the cloud develops.

“The other interesting thing about ODCA is that it represents the business customer’s perspective rather than that of the vendors - while they may have a legitimate view on how cloud computing develops, it is a different view.

“The cross-industry nature of the alliance means not only will we be working will people from global industries who have a stake in this; we will be learning from them. We reserve our right to get smarter,” Bennett says

“Lastly, getting in on the ground floor of cloud computing is a real plus for our people in their career opportunities.”

Formed a year ago, the ODCA draws its members mostly from the user community, with some major ICT providers such as Dell and EMC. Few specialist cloud providers are involved, but this need not be a concern, says Jason Waxman of Intel, which sits a little outside the alliance as its technical advisor. The aim is to provide a “centre of gravity” for customer requirements and so to persuade cloud providers to work with those requirements in mind, he says. Standardising RFP language is a particularly potent weapon in that regard.

There is no regret in not having large public cloud providers like Amazon and Google on board, says alliance board member Petteri Uljas, CEO of CAP Gemini Finland; they are predominantly business-to-consumer providers, while the alliance is a business-to-business operation.

The only non-member provider the alliance would very much like to have on board is Oracle, several board members say. Overtures to that company are continuing.

• Bell travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Intel

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