Most IT commentators agree that we will increasingly move to a computing model where IT resources become commoditized and are sourced in a similar manner to electricity, as a utility.
Today’s cloud computing discussions are typically focused on the speed at which this transformation will take place and on which IT resources will remain on-premise for the foreseeable future.
However, the elephant in the room is government interference. The impact of government interference in the provision of cloud computing services has been clearly demonstrated by the political reaction to Wikileaks.
Although WikiLeaks has done nothing that has been proved to be illegal, some politicians, in the US in particular, have taken it upon themselves to state that WikiLeaks is committing acts of terrorism and to apply pressure on its suppliers. This has caused many organizations to sever their relationships with WikiLeaks. Most notable, from a cloud computing perspective, is Amazon. This sets a disturbing precedent and raises numerous questions about cloud computing and political interference.
Will cloud computing providers also pull the plug on services provided to companies that publish content provided by WikiLeaks, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel?
Will cloud computing providers cease to service organizations that have chosen to fund WikiLeaks?
Given that some leading US politicians have branded WikiLeaks activities as terrorism, could its associates and sponsors be aiding and abetting terrorist activity? Will this impact the ability of these organizations to obtain cloud computing services?
Does this mean that if politicians ask cloud computing providers to sever commercial relationships with organizations which use their services, they will comply?
Will US politicians apply pressure to organizations that host data outside of its own territory?
The Chinese government must be flabbergasted by the apparent hypocrisy coming from some US politicians. It may even be grateful for the precedent that has been set. If the Chinese government does not like the activities of an organization whose data resides in a cloud within its territory, will the cloud provider comply with Chinese government requests including requests to sever commercial relationships?
If a cloud computing provider has responded to pressure from US politicians, will it do the same when under pressure from Chinese politicians? Hong Kong is host to several clouds that service customers outside of Chinese territory.
Singapore is another state that plays host to datacenters which offer cloud computing services. Will it also apply political pressure on organizations which host data that may challenge the legitimacy of its activities?
These are just a few of the questions that the WikiLeaks saga raises in the context of cloud computing.
In recent weeks, other interventions have occurred in markets where public cloud services are being adopted at rapid rates.
Both Australia and New Zealand are markets that have shown a very high propensity to adopt cloud services. In both countries, moves have been made that challenge this adoption. In New Zealand, it has recently been announced that tax records must be kept onshore in order to comply with Inland Revenue Department requirements.
Is it the mandate of governments to determine where corporations, many of which are multinationals, store their data? Why is the geographical location of corporate data of such interest to governments? This intervention stymies the transformation to cloud computing and may affect the competitiveness of those organizations that are impacted.
In Australia, APRA, the financial services regulator, has issued a warning about the use of cloud computing in the financial services sector. Although many of the major financial services companies in Australia already use public cloud services such as Salesforce.com, the warning is making these organizations very secretive about their use of cloud computing. Additionally, it will act as an inhibitor to the adoption of cloud computing as financial institutions will be ultra cautious about getting on the wrong side of the regulator.
So, although the benefits of cloud computing are indisputable and the rate of adoption of cloud services is accelerating, politicians and regulators are now interfering in ways that may inhibit the growth of this market. Indeed recent events raise many more questions about the future of cloud computing.