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The key is to define the common workflows first; the analogy of the operating system is a good one, but the increasingly similar UI mechanisms are more about how users have evolved their workflows (as well as the need to make workflows translate to mobile/touch). If you try to think of UI mechanisms as standards before you understand what users want and need to do in cloud environments regardless of whether they're dealing with VMWare, HyperV, or VMTurbo, then you'll end up with a lot of bells and whistles that nobody finds useful (see "Windows Vista"). While it's true that all vendors will have a different take, there are things like "deploy a vm" that have a lot of commonality as far as workflow; you generally specify parameters (name/description/host/datastore etc., probably a form of some kind w/validation), select a template or ovf or some such (selections/catalogs), and deploy, which is generally async (so notifications, which is one area a standard would be particularly useful). Another problem is, that at this point, for the most part, the engineers building the back ends are building the UIs. Server-side mechanics building UIs for complex systems tend to end up with the same thing over and over; lots of checkboxes, trees, radio buttons, tab-based UIs, confusing functional popups, and so on. Amazon is doing some good work here; there cloud management UI has come a long way, though at this point you could argue they just pushed the "designed by server engineers" down a level by putting a nice clean facade on top of the more confusing views. Take for instance the "services" button; this provides a much more flexible navigation mechanism than simply laying everything out in tabs across the top of the UI. It's analogous to the "Start" button in Windows. Apple went a little further this way and sort of made every icon in the toolbar its own Start button, which I think is a debatable direction as far as adding too much complexity to something that should be very simple. Anyway, interesting topic.
6 months, 3 weeks ago on Thoughts on Cloud User Interface Standards