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Cloud Interoperability Will Connect Agencies, Constituents

Cloud Interoperability Will Connect Agencies, Constituents

As public sector organizations evaluate cloud services as a way to consolidate IT infrastructures, scale systems and enable innovative Open Government services, technology vendors are working to resolve interoperability challenges.

Cloud interoperability is specifically about one cloud solution, such as Windows Azure, being able to work with other platforms and other applications, not just other clouds. Federal agencies and departments want flexibility to run applications locally or in a cloud, or in some combination of the two. Microsoft is working to ensure the promise of cloud interoperability becomes a reality. Microsoft officials firmly believe welcoming competition and choice will create more opportunities for public sector customers, partners and developers.

Eye on Earth

An example is the Eye on Earth project. Working with the European Environment Agency, Microsoft is helping the agency simplify the collection and processing of environmental information for use by government officials and the general public. Using a combination of Windows Azure, Microsoft SQL Azure and pre-existing Linux technologies, Eye on Earth pulls data from 22,000 water monitoring points and 1,000 stations that monitor air quality. It helps synthesize this information and makes it available for people to access in real time in 24 languages.

Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform supports a variety of standards and protocols. Developers can write applications to Windows Azure using PHP, Java, Ruby or the Microsoft .NET Framework. In fact, many product developments are the result of diverse feedback channels Microsoft has developed with partners, customers and other vendors. In 2006, Microsoft created the Interoperability Executive Customer (IEC) Council, a group of 35 CTOs and CIOs from around the world. They meet twice a year in Redmond, WA to discuss interoperability issues. Meanwhile, Microsoft also recently published a progress report that shared operational details and results achieved by the council across six work streams, or priority areas. And the council recently commissioned the creation of a seventh work stream for cloud interoperability, aimed at developing standards related to the cloud, working through operational priorities such as data portability, and establishing privacy, security and service policies in cloud computing environments.

Microsoft also participates in the Open Cloud Standards Incubator, a working group formed by the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), a consortium through which more than 200 tech industry suppliers and customers develop standards for systems management. AMD, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat and VMware are among suppliers that lead the Open Cloud Standards Incubator, creating technical specifications and conducting research to expedite adoption of new cloud interoperability standards.

Microsoft is also part of Simple Cloud, an effort it co-founded with Zend Technologies, IBM and Rackspace designed to help developers write basic cloud applications that work on all of the major cloud platforms.

Microsoft is also helping to build technical ‘bridges’ between Microsoft and non-Microsoft technologies, such as the recently released Windows Azure Software Development Kits (SDKs) for PHP and Java and tools for Eclipse version 1.0, the new Windows Azure platform AppFabric SDKs for Java, PHP and Ruby, the SQL CRUD Application Wizard for PHP, and the Bing 404 Web Page Error Toolkit for PHP.

Microsoft officials said the company “will continue to support an open dialogue among the different stakeholders to define cloud principles and incorporate all points of view to ensure that in this time of change, there is a world of choice.”

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