Cloud

NIST can help you measure the cloud

Shutterstock image: the data cloud connecting a number of global services.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a draft guide aimed at helping agencies find the cloud service provider that is right for them.

NIST released the draft Dec. 16, and the deadline for comments is Jan. 24, 2015.

The "Cloud Computing Service Metrics Description" explains how and why NIST developed metrics for cloud services and how to express them using NIST's model. It also defines the different metrics that cloud service providers and customers use.

The guide proposes an objective model for developing metrics that agencies can use to "navigate a rapidly expanding marketplace," according to NIST's announcement.

Officials said the keys to choosing a good cloud service are definable and measurable requirements, and data on the quality of those capabilities. As an example of a measurable cloud service, NIST cites the "time it takes from someone hitting 'send' on an email until it's delivered to a recipient on the same cloud service."

NIST officials said the guide will help agencies:

  • Select cloud services.
  • Define and enforce service agreements.
  • Monitor cloud services.
  • Conduct accounting and auditing activities.

The draft document is essentially a model for what is possible in cloud service metrics, Frederic de Vaulx, who leads the NIST working group that has been exploring cloud service metrics, told FCW.

"Being able to have measurable services will allow us to, down the road, be able to have cloud services as a commodity and be able to provide cloud services with contractual agreements," de Vaulx said.

The metrics will make it possible for customers and providers to understand what they're getting, he added.

Agencies and cloud service providers often have varying metrics because there is no uniform system for measuring progress or success. NIST officials said they hope their guide will begin to remedy that.

"Stakeholders need to have a way to understand, assess, compare, combine and make decisions about cloud service properties," the NIST guide states. "This means that for a given scenario, a stakeholder needs to be able to get information on cloud service properties, which when measured will guide the stakeholder along the proper course of action."

De Vaulx said he expects the final version of the guide to be available by summer 2015.

About the Author

Colby Hochmuth is a former staff writer for FCW.

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