Users and vendors this week got a framework for implementing virtual data centre and cloud computing environments from a group formed eight months ago to define such requirements.

The Open Data Center Alliance, an organisation formed by large IT companies late last year, unveiled its first deliverable: user-driven cloud usage "models" and data centre requirements for use in RFIs and RFPs. The documents include eight usage models or guidelines that address what the organisation believes are the most urgent issues involving cloud adoption today.

They also represent the first documented customer requirements for cloud, ODCA officials say. But those officials stressed that the models are also a guideline, not a mandate.

"It's a framework to see what's going on, not a 'you have to do it this way,'" says Andrew Feig, executive director on the technology advisory group with UBS' Global Technology Infrastructure Services and an ODCA board member. "Without that transparency, we can't move forward."

The models address security, automation, management and policies, transparency or the ability to compare cloud offerings, and standards compliance.

Security includes two models: Provider Assurance and Compliance Monitoring. Provider Assurance helps ensure industry standard security levels across all cloud provider offerings. Compliance Monitoring recommends ways in which users can confirm standards compliance for security at any time, for any cloud.

The challenge in cloud security, according to the ODCA, is that there's a lack of consistent security delivery and management across enterprise and cloud services. New threats are emerging that target cloud transport, and more than 75% of respondents to a KPMG survey of IT professionals listed security as the chief concern for cloud computing, ODCA says.

Automation deals with Virtual Machine Interoperability and I/O Control models. It defines consistent VM deployment and management across any virtual environment and QoS guarantees across systems and networks in the data centre and clouds.

The goal with these models is to simplify the delivery of dynamic and scalable cloud services and reduce the cost of deploying and operating a virtual machine (VM) infrastructure. Without this simplification, the cost of implementing VMs would be $2 billion between 2010 and 2014, according to ODCA, citing research from Intel and Bain Capital.

"There's not a lot of value to the different vendors' ways of managing VMs," Feig says.

Common Management and Policy includes one model called Regulatory Framework. It is intended as a guide for requirements and compliance management best practices for operational regulations the data centres and clouds may have to adhere to.

The challenge today is a lack of common management between cloud services and providers, and a complex regulatory environment that precludes consistent and uncomplicated management of regulatory compliance, ODCA officials say. And again citing data from KPMG, ODCA officials say most IT practitioners cite regulation as a primary obstacle to cloud deployment.

Transparency includes three models: Service Catalog, Standard Unit of Measurement and Carbon Footprint. Service Catalog enables users to compare cloud service features and price across clouds. Standard Unit of Measurement allows users to measure cloud services based on industry standards and Carbon Footprint recommends how cloud services can become "CO2 Aware."

Again, the rationale for these modes is the lack of a consistent standard framework for comparison of cloud service features, pricing and performance metrics.

The ODCA hopes that adoption of these models will ignite a potential $50 billion market in cloud services while saving IT $25 billion in spending over five years. The ODCA members represent $100 billion in IT spending, officials say.

"Our expectation is that you'll see the acceleration of cloud services as these models are adopted," says Marvin Wheeler, chief strategy officer at service provider Terremark, and chairman and secretary of the ODCA.

The alliance expects initial industry integration of the models within six months and initial deployments in 18 months. The group is collaborating with standards bodies such as the TM Forum and the DMTF, as well as recommending specifications from other bodies like the IEEE, IETF and ITU.

Membership in the ODCA has quadrupled since its debut last November, alliance officials say. It now includes over 280 companies and its steering committee includes big names like Lockheed Martin, BMW, China Life, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Marriott, the National Australia Bank, Shell and UBS.