Who can watch the PRISM fiasco and NOT wonder about its impact on public Cloud computing? If the government can monitor your phone calls, it can certainly force SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS vendors to provide access to your financials, your sales records, your data, and anything else you do or store “in the Cloud”.  And while you probably don’t have anything to hide, do you really want a government contractor (http://bit.ly/16WdkvJ) mucking around with your company’s most critical business asset—your data?

I’ve been a “true believer” in Software as a Service (SaaS) for nearly ten years now. Having spent a great deal of my career writing software for commercial software companies, and managing development teams, I understood what DIDN’T work in terms of application hosting. Traditional Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) products were never intended to be Internet- hosted, much less co-hosted with multiple companies on the same platform. As a result, the early Application Service Provider (ASP) models were often kludgy and offered little cost savings over on-premise hosting.

I knew that three factors would make Cloud-hosted applications successful this time around. The first was that “born in the Cloud” software was specifically designed for multi-tenancy—essentially, hosting multiple companies on a single platform. The second was that it was designed to be run on Open Source software such as Linux, and commodity hardware. In other words, multiple vendors could be hosted very cheaply. Finally, SaaS services were delivered over the web, which meant that “fat client” technology—and the administration nightmare it engenders—was essentially obsolete for most applications.

The combination of low cost, reduced administration, and reasonably good security (by virtue of multi-tenant engineering) proved difficult to resist. During the “Great Recession”, I watched revenues of traditional software vendors decrease, while Cloud vendor revenue grew by double or triple digits. Cloud computing has spawned a host of micro-businesses and put the power of enterprise grade software into the hands of companies of all sizes. I believe the growth of Cloud has been one reason why Tech rebounded relatively quickly from the recession, allowing other industries to follow.

Watching the PRISM fiasco unfold, I’m not surprised at all at the level of surveillance the government is involved in. You didn’t have to read the fine print of the “Patriot Act” to understand that privacy was a thing of the past. The two differences between 2001, when this piece of legislation was passed, and 2013, are the growth of big data/analytics– and the fact that the impact of this legislation is now clear to the “silent majority”, not just to the tech savvy.

In considering a move to the Cloud, security has been one of the key disincentives preventing large companies, in particular, from moving to the Cloud. Maybe “Cloud laggards” were smart to be wary, although I would imagine that few ever thought that the prying eyes could, in the end, be their own government.

I never thought I would say this, because I have been a big proponent of Cloud. However, if I were a CIO, PRISM would be a major concern for me. My hunch is that I’m not the first person who is thinking along these lines and making this connection.

 

 

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