Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Standards Jungle ...

The EC has released a communication on cloud computing

I've had a brief read, I'm in the middle of other work but I'll note that the general comments about the importance for future industry, competitiveness, good historical comparison (industrialisation of IT, comparison to utility) etc are all fairly standard fare. Though there's nothing particularly interesting it's good for them to repeat it. 

There's also the usual wobbles on cloud reducing cost, alas Jevons' paradox ... any reductions will be temporary as we will end up doing more.

However, regarding the Fragmentation of the digital single market and the Standards Jungle, I'll make a couple of observations.

In the value chain associated with cloud, one of the components is obviously enough the Internet i.e. availability of this commoditised means of mass communication has enabled commoditisation of discrete IT activities towards utility services (e.g. IaaS). Now, the Internet is as much a social as a technology phenomenon inherited from the hacker ethos - anonymous, decentralised, egalitarian, interactive, neutral to end user etc. 

The Internet's existence also allowed for the easy formation of communities such as as various open technology communities (e.g. open source) which themselves have inherited the hacker traits. There's a symbiotic relationship here between the Internet enabling the communities and the communities in effect sabotaging mechanisms to control the Internet (either corporate or Gov) through the technology they build.

Today, open technology is huge business and most of this is unaccounted (see the clothesline paradox). For example the economic contribution of Apache is enormous but not normally reported - O'Reilly has a fantastic report on this.

So, onto this symbiotic relationship between the Internet and the open technology communities, environments which by their very origins are anonymous, decentralised and neutral which have generated huge economic value including spurring the whole cloud industry most of which also depends upon open technology - we want to apply more centralised legislative frameworks with concerns over areas such as security (in principle due to anonymity)? 

Hmmm, this feels like it could be a repeat of how the radio spectrum was divided up due to security concerns for the benefit of a few companies but in the process managed to destroy a much wider ecosystem. However, this time the economic value at risk is huge. I'd be naturally cautious with any such measure.

So, unsurprisingly, I have concerns over areas such as the certified cloud providers / standards approach.  I'd want to look closely at the details of this. i.e. could this end up being a rehash of the OSI vs TCP/IP debacle? 

Overall : my view on this is 50/50. In some parts it is probably uncessary and if badly handled then potentially downright dangerous. I'll write something more on this when I've had the chance to read it properly.