Only a science fiction writer might have imagined that consumer technologies like smartphones — coupled with a cloud computing service like Facebook — would be dissidents’ weapons of choice in toppling regimes, as we have seen these last few months in the Middle East.
Facebook, the social network credited with the collaborative oomph needed to galvanize dissent, is one of the most popular cloud computing services, with more than a half billion users worldwide. Will it someday become the engine for a smarter planet, used to distribute food, water and other vital resources equitably?
As Facebook has shown, cloud computing makes the world an even smaller place. Yet global cooperation could be hamstrung by unnecessary regulations regarding data location, according to the cloud computing vendors who flocked to Washington, D.C., this week for a meeting of the Congressional Internet Caucus. In Canada, for example, the government has already forbidden Canadian citizens’ personal information to be taken out of the country.
Dan Burton, executive vice president of global public policy for Salesforce.com, a provider of cloud services for customer relationship management, urged lawmakers not to enact such hurdles to cloud adoption by U.S. companies, saying that if they do, they will forestall momentum in the cloud computing market, which is led by such U.S.-based companies as Amazon.com, Google, IBM and Hewlett-Packard.
Burton said the existing Safe Harbor certification program for data security seems to be doing the trick for vendors, as well as for users of cloud computing services, by following data protection principles established by the European Union. At the very least, the Obama administration is backing a new Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights, which would give consumers more control over their personal data and how it is collected and shared among third parties.
Perhaps today’s science fiction writers can take it from here, and craft stories about how various governments came together by 2015 to establish common laws surrounding cloud commerce, and how that eventually led to a single global government with the United Nations as its council. These stories would go on to describe a consolidated and green global data center infrastructure; better resource allocation; development of solar, wind and geothermal energy; space exploration — and peace.
Back on Earth, cloud computing is moving at such a rapid pace that everyone in the enterprise is being forced to catch up with the mobile technologies that are transforming the workweek into a more flexible, integrated, 24/7 lifestyle.
Stamford, Conn., consultancy Gartner Inc. expects the market for cloud-based infrastructure services alone to nearly triple in the next three years, from the current $3.7 billion to $10.5 billion in 2014. That doesn’t count the Software as a Service market, which is becoming a mainstream part of enterprise IT architecture, according to Julie Smith David, a professor at Arizona State University and a co-author of a report about integrating SaaS with legacy systems that was commissioned by the Society for Information Management’s Advanced Practices Council.
Look for a SaaS reality check on SearchCIO.com next week.