By Jim Finkle
BOSTON (Reuters)—IBM led dozens of tech companies in calling on Monday for open standards to promote "cloud" computing, a fledgling technology the industry hopes will drive growth over the coming decade.
But rival Microsoft Corp dismissed the effort, accusing International Business Machines Corp of seeking to exert control of the field, while cloud-computing pioneers Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc, Salesforce.com Inc were conspicuously absent from a list of companies endorsing it. "Cloud computing"—one of the hottest buzz words in Silicon Valley—refers to a variety of ways in which technology companies offer services over the Web from remote data centers, seemingly from the cloud of the Internet.
The IBM-led resolution—dubbed the Open Cloud Manifesto—calls for making cloud computing products compatible with each other to boost their appeal to businesses.
Companies are generally reluctant to adopt proprietary new technologies where they feel locked into one provider out of concern they won't have the option to switch to another vendor if things go sour or better options arise.
"It's not that everything is going to be perfectly compatible, but it is going to be somewhat similar so that you can move from one vendor to another. It gives businesses the comfort level they need to buy," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with technology research firm RedMonk.
The tech industry is under pressure to encourage businesses to adopt cloud computing technologies, which could help them save money by outsourcing part of their IT operations to mega-data centers that can achieve huge economies of scale.
Besides issues of compatibility, companies worry about the security implications of storing information at remote computer centers and moving it across the Internet.
Tech researcher Gartner Inc estimates that the market for cloud-based business software, computing services and storage from companies including Salesforce.com Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Microsoft and IBM will total about $10 billion this year. That's just a fraction of the $223 billion that Gartner is projecting for the business software market alone.
IBM sees the manifesto as a first step toward establishing specific standards so customers can confidently switch between cloud-computing providers, said Irving Wladawski-Berger, chairman emeritus of the IBM Academy of Technology.
O'Grady of RedMonk expects that some of the standards would focus on security areas such as data protection and identity verification, alleviating some of the biggest concerns.
Backers of the manifesto include AT&T Corp., Cisco Systems Inc, EMC Corp, Novell Inc, Red Hat Inc, Sun Microsystems Inc and VMware Inc.
A spokeswoman for Amazon said her company was reviewing the document. A Google spokesman said his company decided not to support the manifesto, but did not give a reason. A spokesman for Salesforce.com could not be reached for comment.
But Microsoft vocally criticized IBM's role in drafting the manifesto, saying Microsoft was only asked to sign on at the last minute.
"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," Microsoft executive Steven Martin said in a blog posting. Wladawski-Berger at IBM said his company was one of the key leaders of the project, but that other organizers included Google. He added that he was surprised Google decided not to sign the document.
He said that he believed Microsoft and IBM would eventually work out their differences over the emerging standards.
"I've been around for a long time. There are always food fights at the beginning," he said. "This will get worked out."
(Reporting by Jim Finkle; Editing by Jason Szep)
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