By Alistair Barr
SAN FRANCISCO, June 19 Concerns about security
in the cloud are flaring anew after recent revelations about
government data-mining, likely spurring new technology to
protect corporate and consumer information, according to a panel
of cloud experts.
Reports that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)
secretly gathers user data from nine big Internet companies,
including Microsoft Corp and Google Inc, have
dented confidence in cloud computing, especially among customers
outside the United States.
The reports have triggered debate over how far the
government can go in its quest to enhance national security, and
also provoked outrage from many non-U.S. users depending on
large American Internet corporations for everything from email
to Internet storage to social networking, industry executives
told the Reuters Global Technology Summit on Wednesday.
"Are people concerned about doing business in the United
States and what the U.S. could do with their data? The answer is
yes," RackSpace Chief Technology Officer John Engates said.
"It's something as a country we need to figure out, how to allay
some of the fears about data moving through the United States."
"That's partly why people are gravitating toward the idea of
private clouds that you can run in other countries."
One solution is to build "private clouds" for companies,
which combine on-site computer processing power with outside
cloud resources, Engates added. This gives companies more
control over their data and keeps it in their own country.
Germany and China are among the countries exploring the idea
of building "private" clouds within their borders - essentially
versions of the public Internet cloud that they control. In the
wake of the NSA scandal, France has openly called for a
sovereign cloud of its own.
Meanwhile, businesses will gravitate towards industry-based
clouds in sensitive sectors from financial services to
healthcare. General Electric unveiled an "Industrial
Internet" service on Tuesday to track, analyze and share data to
and from products like jet engines and gas turbines.
"VERY REAL" SECURITY, PRIVACY CONCERNS
The cloud lets companies rent remote computing power and
data storage by the hour, rather than buying their own servers
and running them in expensive datacenters. This can save a lot
of money and give companies more flexibility to quickly increase
and decrease tech spending when needed.
AWS and other rivals, such as Microsoft, Google, RackSpace
Hosting Inc and Hewlett-Packard Co, are trying
to win big corporations as cloud customers. However, data
privacy and security have always been a barrier to adoption and
the recent NSA revelations have exacerbated this.
But security and privacy are especially pertinent for
consumers increasingly expanding their online profile and
storing personal information in the cloud, the executives said.
"The security and privacy concerns are very real for
consumers," said Tien Tzuo, founder of Zuora, which sets up
payments and billing for cloud software service providers.
"There's a sense that there needs to be a new breed of
technologies to give a little bit more control of their private
information back to consumers. And I think we're going to see a
lot of innovation in that area over the next few years."
Businesses on the other hand, can employ a wide range of
tactics. AWS, Amazon.com Inc's cloud computing
business, provides ways for customers to encrypt data they
store, said Terry Wise, director of business development.
Some also argue for a hybrid cloud approach. Secure data can
remain on the inhouse servers while cloud computing does the
"heavy lifting" in terms of raw processing, the executives said.
Wise said that AWS has already set up specific cloud
environments for industries that have to comply with stricter
regulations on things like data privacy and security. Its
GovCloud service is built for government customers, while
"FinQloud" is for the financial-services sector.
Despite persistent concerns about cloud security, some
corporations, like Netflix Inc, are aggressively riding the
trend and steadily eliminating inhouse computing power. Netflix
CTO Adrian Cockcroft told Reuters the videostreaming giant was
down to one datacenter from three just a few years ago, and now
relied on Internet software provided by Workday and Google to
handle such functions as human resources.
"We're systematically disassembling the corporate IT
components," he said.
Follow Reuters Summits on Twitter @Reuters_Summits