New IEEE Standard Advances Federated Cloud Computing

Enables Users to Create One Virtual Computing Environment from Multiple Clouds to Support Evolving Needs


Computing increasingly is performed “in the cloud,” meaning that the necessary servers, data storage devices, software and related digital tools and services are not local resources, but rather they are utilized via a remote data center managed by a cloud service provider.

Users turn to cloud computing-enabled applications to augment their own in-house resources, to offer or take advantage of specialized services and scalable business models and to engage in collaborative research and other joint projects. 

This trend is large and growing fast. By some estimates, the cloud computing market grew to $700 billion in 2021 from its commercial beginnings around 16 years ago, and is projected to nearly double from there in just the next few years, to more than $1.3 trillion by 2025. This growth is driven by an overall greater use of the internet, an expanding universe of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and the growing use of digital solutions in diverse industries, with ever-growing amounts of data that must be processed and stored and fast-growing applications such as artificial intelligence (AI) and 5G.

However, the growing complexity and diversity of cloud computing tasks have reached the point where a single cloud environment is increasingly inadequate. A multi-cloud, or federated cloud, environment is urgently needed to provide users with required computing resources and services and to serve wide-ranging geographical areas effectively.

Unfortunately, at present, cloud providers do not tend to interoperate except in highly customized one-off arrangements. A key reason for this is that different clouds may be incompatible, based on differing architectures which also may be proprietary. Security, privacy and commercial arrangements are also key concerns.

An effective cloud-agnostic scheme for safe and effective cloud interoperability and federation is needed. This capability would lead to interconnected cloud resources analogous to the relationships which evolved among telephone service providers in years past, which facilitated the original global long-distance network for voice, and more recently made possible today’s cellular world where one provider’s customers can “roam” on another’s network.

The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) provides guidance on how this can be done in the recently published standard, IEEE 2302-2021™, Standard for Intercloud Interoperability and Federation (SIIF).

IEEE 2302 Paves the Way to Cloud Interoperability & Federation

This new standard was developed by the Intercloud Working Group within the IEEE Computer Society’s Cloud Computing Standards Committee, in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Based on the cloud federation roadmap outlined in NIST Special Publication 500-332: The NIST Cloud Federation Reference Architecture, it describes a functional model that supports all of the governance and processes required to design and implement a successful, effective cloud federation.

By definition, a cloud federation is a virtual collaboration and security framework among two or more cloud providers, and it isn’t “owned” by any one user or organization. More than just an aggregation of resources, a cloud federation is an arrangement in which participants’ identities, data and other resources are managed as a unified, interoperable whole.

Participating users, sites and organizations agree upon the common goals and governance of their federation (e.g., their roles, attributes and policies) in order to collaborate. The participating entities have official membership in the federation, along with identity credentials, and they choose to share specific resources and metadata which allow them to be discoverable and accessible to other federation members under specified conditions.

IEEE 2302 Addresses Topological, Functional, and Governance Requirements

IEEE 2302 addresses the requirements necessary to achieve these holistic goals. It gives guidance on the required topological elements, such as definitions for clouds, roots, exchanges (to mediate governance between clouds) and gateways (to mediate data exchange).

It also addresses functional elements such as messaging, data formatting, the trust infrastructure and resource ontologies (i.e., data models, attributes and relationships). And it addresses the needed governance elements as well, including registration, geo-independence, the trust anchor, and compliance/audit processes which may be needed.

Cloud Federation Makes Possible Many Different Use Cases

IEEE 2302 can help bring the benefits of cloud interoperability and federation to many different types of projects. Here are a few conceptual examples to illustrate these benefits:

  • Coordinated international disaster response: A cloud federation can be created on-demand among governmental agencies, relief organizations and other stakeholders located around the world, to enable first responders to quickly list what supplies they need, and to quickly identify where they can be obtained for on-the-ground relief efforts. Such a federation also would enable logistics managers from different participants to orchestrate flights and trucks, consolidate shipping options, and create a viable transportation system to deliver needed materials to a remote area. Medical personnel could also do triage for the delivery of medical care. All of these actors and their interactions would be authenticated and authorized for their specific roles only, reducing the possibility of any unnecessary, unintended or malicious activities.
  • Collaborative research: A federated open-source notebook can be created to allow researchers at multiple academic institutions to work collaboratively on a project. All participants could have a uniform view of the notebook, but participants in different working groups would have different federated identities and authorizations for what they could read or write in it.
  • Multi-stakeholder vaccine development: In the case of an urgent viral pandemic, multiple drug companies might be working in parallel to develop vaccines, using both clinical trials and high-performance computing to evaluate different drug combinations. The federation’s membership would include researchers who are reporting progress, government stakeholders who want to know about that progress, and clinical trial participants to validate results and guide researchers. The results must be shared among all participants in a controlled manner, and a cloud federation would enable such controlled access based on participants’ identities and roles.

Learn More

IEEE 2302 can help users benefit from the power, flexibility and economics of federated cloud computing environments. For those who wish to learn more, an in-depth technical discussion about cloud interoperability and federation can be found in this video produced last year by the IEEE Intercloud Working Group.

More details about IEEE 2302 can be found here, or by contacting us directly at the email addresses below.


  • Dr. Robert Bohn, Chair, IEEE Intercloud Working Group, and NIST Cloud Computing Program Manager, [email protected]
  • Dr. Martial Michel, Vice Chair, IEEE Intercloud Working Group, and Chief Scientific Officer at Data Machines Corp., [email protected]

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