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Microsoft and BT join cloud-computing group

Aims to improve hosted computing for business

Microsoft, Cisco, IBM and others have joined forces to form the Enterprise Cloud Buyers Council, a cloud-computing group that hopes to remove barriers to enterprise use of hosted cloud computing.

Initial members include companies that offer hosted cloud computing as well as enterprises that use such services, including Microsoft, IBM, HP, Cisco, AT&T, BT, EMC, Deutsche Bank, Alcatel-Lucent, Amdocs, CA, Nokia Siemens Networks, Telecom Italia and Telstra. Two industry organisations, Distributed Management Task Force and the IT Service Management Forum, are also involved. The TM Forum, an industry association that helps information and communications companies create profitable services, came up with the idea of the council.

Business IT advice

One important issue that the council will try to address is the current fear among enterprises of vendor lock-in, said Gary Bruce, a principal researcher at BT. The council may decide to work on standards-based solutions around various layers of cloud computing, including the virtualization, management and control layers, so that enterprises can more easily port their projects from one cloud computing vendor to another, he said.

In addition, enterprises are often concerned about security and reliability, he said.

"It might be that a full technical solution is needed, or it might be that education is needed," he said. The council will study the issues and decide how best to address them, he said.

The council may also develop programs for dealing with cloud performance and latency issues

Noticeably absent from the initial list of members is Amazon, a leader in cloud computing services. A spokeswoman for Amazon did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Separately, however, Amazon is also trying to remove barriers to using hosted cloud computing. On Tuesday, it released a cost comparison calculator. The spreadsheet lets companies input information about their data needs, and then it compares the cost of using Amazon EC2, hosting the project internally or using a co-location facility. Amazon also released a white paper that outlines the direct and indirect costs of running a data center.

IBM and Microsoft did not reply to requests for comment about their involvement in the council. BT is currently developing a cloud computing service called BT Koala.

The TM Forum is hosting a web conference on December 16 to offer more details about the council.

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