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TheStreet Open House

IBM's 'Open Cloud' Has Critics in a Lather

Updated from 1:34 p.m. EDT

IBM's (IBM) attempts to implement industry-wide standards for cloud computing have been snubbed by some of the biggest names in the tech sector, amid accusations that the "Open Cloud Manifesto" lacks openness.

The document, which appeared on the Opencloudmanifesto.org Web site late Sunday, aims to unify the tech sector's approach to cloud computing, but it has already antagonized the likes of Microsoft (MSFT).

Championed by hardware and software giant IBM, the six-page manifesto attempts to define cloud computing and establishes key principles for an open cloud. "It is our intention to define standards for every capability in the cloud," it says, adding that cloud providers must work together to address issues such as security, metering and management.

Among the more than 30 companies and organizations that have signed up to support the manifesto are big hitters such as Cisco Systems (CSCO), EMC (EMC), VMware (VMW), AMD (VMW), and AT&T (T).

Notable by their absence from the list, however, are cloud trailblazers Google (GOOG), Salesforce.com (CRM) and Amazon (AMZN), as well as software behemoth Microsoft.

Although Microsoft agrees with the general principles behind the manifesto, the firm is not happy about how the document was created.

"We were admittedly disappointed by the lack of openness in the development of the Cloud Manifesto," wrote Steven Martin, Microsoft's director of developer platform product management, in a blog. "What we heard was that there was no desire to discuss, much less implement, enhancements to the document."

Martin says that Microsoft was shown a copy of the "secret" document privately, and told that it must be signed "as is," without modifications or additional input.

"It appears to us that one company, or just a few companies, would prefer to control the evolution of cloud computing, as opposed to reaching a consensus across key stakeholders (including cloud users) through an "open" process," he added. "An open Manifesto emerging from a closed process is at least mildly ironic."

IBM denies that the manifesto was present as a closed document, and hinted at the tensions that so often accompany industry-wide standards efforts.

"There was an active back and forth discussion and we were frankly quite surprised by their negative remarks," said IBM spokeswoman Kelly Sims. "It's purposely a very high-level document because we want a broad group of companies to be able to come to the table - then we will start the hard work of figuring out what's in and what's out from a technology standpoint."

Another non-signer, Google, pulled out of the manifesto after initially signing up, according to a BBC news report, although the search giant emailed the vaguest of statements to TheStreet.com.

"While Google isn't party to the manifesto, we are a strong advocate of cloud computing," wrote Google spokesman Jon Murchinson. "We value industry dialogue that results in more and better delivery of software and services via the Internet, and appreciate IBM's leadership and commitment in this area."

Cloud computing is certainly gaining momentum. Companies such as Amazon, IBM, and Sun are all touting a range of online cloud services as a way for customers to avoid the cost of expensive up front hardware and software services.

At least one analyst, however, wants to see the tech sector move beyond the manifesto and really ramp up the dialogue about cloud computing.

"They shouldn't have said 'these are the universal principles across the cloud' - you can't define cloud," said Frank Gillet, vice president and principal analyst at technology research firm Forrester. "I don't think that IBM or anyone else is in a position to do that."

Instead, Gillet would like to see the tech behemoths talk less about the "generic cloud" and more about specific services.

"Are you talking about software-as-a-service, application platforms as a service, or are you talking about virtualization servers as a service?" he told TheStreet.com. "These are all examples of the many things that people are buying as a service."

IBM's shares rose 37 cents, or 0.4%, to $94.52 Monday, resisting a broader retreat in tech stocks that saw the Nasdaq drop 2.81%.

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