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Cerf urges standards for cloud computing

Paul Krill | Jan. 11, 2010
Management of cloud assets requires protocols, standards, and research, Internet protocol designer says

SAN FRANCISCO, 8 JANUARY 2010 - Vint Cerf, a co-designer of the Internet's TCP/IP protocols and considered a father of the Internet itself, emphasized the need for data portability standards for cloud computing during an appearance on Thursday evening.

There are different clouds from companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Google, but a lack of interoperability between them, Cerf explained at a session of the Churchill Club business and technology organization in Menlo Park, Calif.

"At some point, it makes sense for somebody to say, 'I want to move my data from cloud A to cloud B,' " but the different clouds do not know each other, he said.

"We don't have any inter-cloud standards," Cerf said.  The current cloud situation is similar to the lack of communication and familiarity among computer networks in 1973, said Cerf, who is vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google.

"People are going to want to move data around, they're going to want to ask clouds to do things for them," said Cerf. They might even want to have multiple clouds interact with each other in order to take advantage of the computing power offered through such combinations, he said.

"There's a whole raft of research work still to be done and protocols to be designed and standards to be adopted that will allow people to manage assets" in clouds, Cerf said. Google, for its part, is resonant with this notion, he said. But right now, users can get data out of the Google cloud but perhaps not  send it to another cloud.

He also stressed cloud security. "Strong authentication will be a critical element in the securing of clouds," said Cerf. The Obama Administration, for its part, has expressed a desire to use cloud-based computing techniques to make government more efficient and for inter-agency communication, he said.

Commenting on other topics, Cerf predicted a growing role for mobile devices in everyday life and connections of more appliances, including home appliances and office equipment, to the Internet. "Once you do that, the mobile [device] is potentially the remote controller for all of these things," he said.

"The mobile now replaces all those little remotes that are sitting on the table in front of you," said Cerf.

He endorsed the notion of opening access to "white spaces" -- unused broadcasting spectrum serving as a buffer between TV channels  --  as a way to expand broadcast access. Google would like to see the white spaces unlicensed and said technology today exists to enable use of the white spaces.

Questioned about offering inexpensive wireless or broadband services, Cerf said different entities should continue building and operating different pieces of the Internet and put them together, rather than Google itself taking on the whole task. He explained that Google had gotten involved in plans to build a free WiFi service for San Francisco and developed a pilot project for Mountain View, Calif.,  south of San Francisco. But the project scope began expanding to include 29 jurisdictions in the area.


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