The Open Cloud Initiative (OCI) is a California public benefit corporation (non-profit) run by a group of likeminded individuals to advocate open cloud computing. Initiated in March 2009 in response to confusion over the meaning of the term "Open Cloud", the organisation was formalised as a legal entity and officially launched at OSCON in July 2011. It maintains a set of Open Cloud Principles (OCP) and uses them to determine whether a given product or service is compliant and therefore "Open Cloud", both by way of community consensus.
Refer to the history page for more historical details.
Cloud computing is essentially the migration from IT products to services, in the same way that consumers of electricity migrated from generators (products) to the grid (services) over a century ago. However, unlike electricity (which simply requires standardisation of voltage and, in the case of alternating current, frequency — 110v@60Hz in the USA, 240v@50Hz in Europe and various other combinations elsewhere), cloud computing services are generally not fungible.
That is to say, as the cloud provider typically has to store data (virtual machines, documents, database records, etc) in order to provide the service, it is not simply possible to start consuming services from another provider — you need to first export the data from the first provider in an open standard format and import it into the second. Furthermore, in order to automate the process you need both providers to expose an open standard interface. There's no point having no access to transparent data and there's no point having unfettered access to opaque data — users need unfettered access to transparent data.
By using open standards in this fashion it is possible to guarantee important user freedoms while also allowing businesses to make money — this is what we mean when we say "Open Cloud".
In a product world, user freedoms were protected for many years by making the source code available under copyright licenses that allowed users to take it, run it, modify it to suit their needs and then redistribute it with or without modifications to other users. At one end of the spectrum was "free" software (software in the public domain, protected by permissive "BSD" licenses or "copyleft" licenses where the only protections allowed guaranteed the same freedoms to downstream users). At the other end was "proprietary" software, for which the source code was not available at all. The Open Source Initiative (OSI) sought to find a balance between the two extremes that protected user freedoms, while enabling businesses to make money. It did so by way of the Open Source Definition (OSD) which is used as a litmus test by the community to determine whether new licenses are "Open Source". The Open Cloud Initiative is modeled after, and thankful for, the Open Source Initiative's hard work in getting us this far.
In a service world, when the only tool in your toolbox is software licensing, you naturally try to tighten up the licenses in order to trigger the requirement for the provider to divulge the source code to the user. Traditionally, with copyleft licenses such as the GPL, this happens when you distribute or "convey" the software — typically a precondition for making use of it (if you don't have the code you can't execute it). However if the software is accessible over the network then users can use it without ever having had access to the software itself. This became apparent with the dual-licensed MySQL database server and was termed the "service provider loophole", because it allowed service providers to use and modify the software without having to distribute the source code. The solution was the Affero General Public License (AGPL), which required software to offer its source code to "all users interacting with it remotely through a computer network". While this may protect the users, it may also make it difficult for businesses to make money. By using Open Standards, such extreme measures are rendered unnecessary, and would be unlikely to be adopted by today's proprietary services anyway. The AGPL is nonetheless a fine license for Open Source projects wishing to protect themselves in today's service oriented world.
Open Source does however play a key role in Open Cloud, as the Open Cloud Principles (OCP) require "multiple full, faithful and interoperable implementations", at least one of which is Open Source. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that users always have an alternative that they can deploy and that does not require them to hire developers to implement open standards themselves.