Cerf urges standards for cloud computing

Management of cloud assets requires protocols, standards, and research, Internet protocol designer says

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.

"As a business model, it's hard for me to imagine a global company like Google wanting to invest in infrastructure for the entire world," Cerf said.

Cerf also said he has been working with NASA to see if the interplanetary protocols in development can be put on top of the Google-backed Android OS for mobile devices. Eventually, mobile devices might be able to communicate with satellites via these protocols, thus enabling more complex space missions involving multiple space crafts, he said.

Optical switching also has caught his attention. "I have become very excited about optical switching as an efficient way of moving huge quantities of information back and forth," Cerf said.

Cerf also endorsed the notion of IP-based television to support services such as on-demand programming. "A packaged-switch system can support on-demand more easily," he said.

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