The NIST Matters, Whether You Like it or Not.

Posted on January 19, 2012 by


Way back in September of 2011 the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released the NIST Cloud Computing Reference Architecture (link here). Upon the release, some experts of Cloud Computing nearly took to the streets of Maryland – where NIST is based – with pitchforks and torches calling for the author’s heads. Come back to 2012, and once again cloud experts recalled last summer and how much “fail” was involved in the NIST standard. Some even argued that the standard was a fail as it left out a definition of CAP theorem.

Other experts, such as Christopher Hoff, argued that the NIST Reference architecture is actually a Win, as it helps to upstart productive conversations about Cloud Computing. Ben Kepes, of CloudU, jumped in with his own opinion stating that the NIST Standard was good, but not simple enough.

But guess what? It doesn’t matter what you, or these Cloud pundits, think. The fact of the matter is that the Reference Architecture is out there, and US Federal Agencies will use it to drive their decision criteria for Cloud solutions. The smart companies (or vendors) will recognize this, and exploit it to their advantage. Shortly after the NIST Reference Architecture was published, I met with a Service Provider for the Federal space. This Service Provider mentioned to me that they wanted to ensure that my company’s Cloud Solution met the NIST guidelines for Cloud.

This Service Provider (SP) recognized the importance of the NIST Architecture. The SP realized that the “standard” would drive the Federal Agencies requirements going forward, and they wanted to make sure they could meet these standards. Come back to now, and we see things like CSC announcing the “CSC CloudCompute for Government Offers Federal Community Cloud That is Built Using NIST Guidelines“. Add to this a recent RFP I’ve worked on for a third tier Service Provider that quotes the NIST standard verbatim.

In the end, the cloud pundits miss an important point; it’s not what they think the cloud standard should be that matters, rather it’s what the market makes it that really matters. The NIST has helped to define the “standard”, and thus the market for many verticals. Yes, they’ve ignored things like CAP theorem and the “Why” of cloud, but in the end they have helped provide a definition for legacy environments that can jumpstart their Cloud initiatives. For many environments, baby steps are the key.

If you are a Cloud Vendor or offer Cloud Consulting services, ignore the NIST definition at your own peril; your competition is not.

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Posted in: Michael's