Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Going Global: Data Sovereignty in the Cloud

View from my Hotel in Seoul
As I sit here in downtown Seoul waiting for my various meeting (including with the Canadian Embassy). I am reminded, thanks to a great post in the UK's Guardian by Ben Kepes, on the importance of Geography when it comes to cloud computing. The post is very timely in part, because of the recent campaign by some in our industry to downplay the importance of the geo-political aspects of where and how information is handled.

In the article Kepes says
"The thing limiting uptake of some of these solutions is a requirement, be it regulated or merely perceptional, is that data needs to be stored domestically. In relation to the connection between filesharing services and the risks introduced by US legislation such as the Patriot Act,"
You know what? He's right and his line "merely perceptitional" hits at the heart of the problem.  I've also been saying this for years and it all truly does boil down to data sovereignty.

Yes, I know that many say that this is little more than FUD, like what our friends at Microsoft in a recent post where they state;
The essence of the problem is that there is a perception that organisations are not allowed to send data outside the geographic boundaries of their home country. In Australia, the perception is that data must stay on the island. There is no law that states data must remain on the island. There are some policies that recommend it, but nothing actually preventing it except in national secret instances.
Herein lies the problem, I do agree that policy, law and regulations are for the most part lacking. But I also realize that this is a reality of an emerging and fast changing industry. Just because there is "no law" doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense. (Need i point to the banking industry) The problem with IT in general is there tends to be an America First policy. Go ahead and sign up for a cloud service and you'll notice things like the requirement of ZIP Code, or State as part of the registration process. Hey I'm in Canada, we don't have states or Zip codes!

Adding to the mess are reports like the recent one Ovum published that it says "debunks the common misconception that data sovereignty issues are a major barrier to the use of public cloud services."

Whether implicit or just generally expected. The fact is that most US centric cloud providers treat global as, well, just the rest of the world. For these guys, going Global means anything outside of the USA. So let me remind you, each country is indeed its own country and shouldn't be expected to just except the laws of some distant land because that happens to be where the biggest cloud happens to be head quartered. To succeed in a truely global landscape you must accommodate the local variances and curtual differences. One size doesn't not fit all.

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