Who says you have to be a vendor or a channel partner to get involved in industry associations driving the adoption of cloud computing? If there's an unwritten rule somewhere, nobody bothered to tell the City of Chicago, which announced this week it had joined the Open Cloud Consortium (OCC).

The OCC is a not-for-profit organization that manages and operates cloud computing infrastructure to support Big Data for scientific, medical, healthcare and environmental research. That's quite the huge mandate, and the organization's membership is made up of a variety of corporations (most in the technology sector in some way), universities, U.S. national laboratories and federal agencies, as well as international partners.

This marks the first time a city has actually joined the consortium, and through it, the Windy City will have access to the Open Science Data Cloud and other OCC resources that will help in developing standards and benchmarks in cloud computing.

"An open and transparent administration serves as a platform for innovative tools that improve the lives of all residents," said Chicago CTO John Tolva, in a prepared statement. "Chicago's vibrant technology and startup community will leverage this wealth of open, public data to create applications that will improve service delivery and lead to greater quality of service for residents and more public engagement in city government."

Could this be simply a beginning for American cities in joining the OCC? Time will tell, of course, but it seems that if it's good enough for a major hub such as Chicago, then it's good enough for some of the major metropolises across the nation.

The city itself has a strong history of adopting leading edge technologies. Starting in 2008, Chicago's Department of Innovation and Technology was formed to "add innovation to city government's information technology services." That's a good indication the city administration has a good technology strategy, and has focused heavily on leveraging Big Data and other new technology tools, including cloud.

"This partnership is a big step forward for those who want to build applications around publically available data from cities," said Robert Grossman, OCC's founder and director. "We are hopeful that our efforts not only expand the Big Data community in the Chicago region, but will be adapted and used by other cities across the U.S."