More than a dozen of the biggest technology companies, including IBM, Cisco Systems and SAP, formally announced a new standards-setting committee Monday for the emerging sector of cloud computing.

The goal of the big guns is to develop some early benchmarks for the cloud, or Internet-based computing, as early as the fourth quarter of 2012, IBM's chief technology officer for cloud computing, Chris Ferris, told International Business Times.

The whole effort is about establishing a level playing field, Ferris said. We need the capability to develop complex applications that contain many moving parts for the cloud.

The group, called OASIS, set up a technical committee in November dubbed TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Application) and headed by Paul Lipton, senior architect for service-oriented architecture at CA Technologies.

Only formally announced Monday, TOSCA already has set up various benchmarks for cloud applications on which standards may be set throughout 2012. It already has a draft specification from many of its members, which also include EMC, Capgemini, Software AG, Red Hat, Virtunomic, NetApp and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Last week, Steven VanRoekel, chief information officer of the federal government, told IBTimes in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas he plans to shift more federal computing to the cloud as well, following a directive from President Barack Obama.

The goal of all the parties is to save costs, IBM's Ferris said, but also to establish standards so that parts of the new Internet-based applications can be easily packaged and placed into the cloud.

Other leading technology companies that operate cloud platforms, such as Hewlett-Packard, the No. 1 computer services provider, and Apple, the most valuable technology company that uses the cloud to deliver content and applications, were invited to join OASIS but haven't joined yet, Ferris said.

We're pleased by the constituency we have, Ferris said.

Shares of IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., closed Friday at $179.16, down $1.39. U.S. markets were closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.