Cloud manufacturing is a model for enabling on-demand network access to a shared pool of reconfigurable manufacturing resources that can be rapidly encapsulated, provisioned and released as manufacturing services. Enterprises involved in cloud manufacturing networks share their heterogeneous business models, manufacturing resources and knowledge to provide high quality consumable manufacturing services. Therefore, there is a need to develop a resource description protocol and service description language to cover all the aspects of cloud-based business collaborations in manufacturing industry. This information model needs to be inclusive of representation of all phases of a product’s lifecycle, service model description, and other essential information contributed to e-businesses. This paper presents an ontology-based approach to enable sematic interoperability throughout the whole process of service provision in the clouds. The detailed requirements for enabling cloud-based data exchange are discussed. A generic ontology development process is then proposed with special focus on reusing existing international and/or industrial standards. Specifically highlighted is a systematic guidance on developing ontologies. The utilisation of the proposed ontology in resource virtualisation and resource retrieval in cloud manufacturing environments is also elaborated. Copyright © 2014 Inderscience Enterprises Ltd.