The DMTF’s Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI) - a new cloud infrastructure management standard

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If cloud computing is to mature as a reliable enterprise computing platform, we need more effective standards for cloud – that is, working standards generated by the industry and supported by interoperability testing, not more ivory tower documents. This is because most people’s perception of cloud computing doesn’t involve being locked into one particular cloud vendor and being held to ransom (with a non-operating business) if that cloud fails, with their data as the hostage chained to a vendor’s API or management regime.

So, I welcome the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) announcement of another cloud standard: the Cloud Infrastructure Management Interface (CIMI) which addresses the runtime maintenance and provisioning of cloud services. This only deals with some of the areas needing standardisation (the DMTF lifecyle identifies template, offering, contract and termination phases too) but it’s a necessary part of what’s needed – see press release here.

Talking with Winston Bumpus (Director of Standards Architecture at VMware and Chairman of the Board at the Distributed Management Task Force) about this, he emphasised the consensus nature of DMTF standards and the degree of interoperability testing that is part of its forum-based standards making process.

The scope of the CIMI standard covers core IaaS functionality; it’s about deploying and managing Machines, Volumes, Networks, Monitoring, etc. Once you’ve interfaced to the IaaS provider, the information you need to manage your cloud service can be discovered iteratively, including the metadata describing capabilities and resource constraints.

The model behind CIMI describes: resources (systems or collections of resources managed as a whole, probably as an OVF file); machines (a computing resource with CPU and memory); volumes (storage); and networks (representing a layer 2 broadcast domain). It also describes “meters” (metrics for some useful property of something) and event logs.

Most developers will deal with the CIMI REST/HTTP-Based Protocol, the current interface binding to the model (others are expected later). This delivers standard HTTP status codes and supports JSON and XML serialization formats.

CIMI and its REST-based protocol is described here.

What this all really means is that organisations should now be able to design cloud-based business solutions and be confident that management (and even governance) processes won’t be compromised if they move their business solution to another suitable (standards-based) IaaS provider – or even move it in-house.

Well, CIMI is just one enabler for this, of course. These organisations will need other standards too and they’ll need to invest in designing their cloud applications to move freely between clouds (which is part of guaranteeing business continuity). Nevertheless, we are now another step along the road towards cloud maturity for the enterprise.