Friday, July 05, 2013

On Prism, European Clouds and European Cloud Standards

First, as I've said several weeks ago, I love PRISM

This is not because I think PRISM is a good idea but a great opportunity to be exploited for the benefit of the European Union.  The 'breach of trust' can be used to renegotiate trade, create a more favourable economic environment for Europe and even resolve some tax issues with certain companies.

I outlined how to do this in the above linked post and it begins by declaring outrage and threatening to ban US web services in Europe. Alas, negotiators will always call your bluff and so you have to be prepared to do this and encourage the development of our own equivalent systems. This will require a huge investment fund. I suggested about 100 billion Euros and this is nothing more than a modern technology equivalent of 'Freedom's Forge'.

I'm all in favour of re-balancing trade and the market in this way. Yes, there will be years of pain but the benefits can be explained if the investment fund is large enough. You want to create a massive start-up boost to fill the vacuum that banning those services will create, let the market form and then let the VCs pile in.

Would I do this? Without any hesitation I'd use this as my negotiating position.  I love PRISM and thank you America.

What about the idea of building a European Cloud? 

Hmmm, hold your horses here. What we want to do is encourage the market to fill the vacuum not for the EC to attempt to build it themselves or get one of the many IT dinosaurs to role in with an 'outsourced solution' for Europe. Markets are pretty good at this stuff and competition, that's why we should take advantage of them.

What we want is a strong European market which meets the needs of users.  We'd be just exploiting the 'breach of trust' around PRISM as the excuse to help boost that European market without anyone being able to shout 'protectionism' and start a trade war.

So, if you mean by European Cloud a 100 billion Euros investment fund to enable a massive start-up market then I'm all in favour.  If you mean the European Commission should build a cloud for Europe then no.  Please don't.  You'll outsource it all, the costs will spiral, it'll become a cluster frack and cause untold damage to the economy.  Let the market do what markets are good at.

Well, at least we're going to need European Cloud Standards?

Hmmm, hold your horses here. As I said before markets are pretty good at sorting this out and creating de facto standards which meet users need. You only need government interference when the market is clearly not functioning correctly or there is little evidence of a level playing field developing or it's mature enough that there is a clear benefit.

There's been a glorious history of standard bodies interfering in no-ones interest but their own e.g. OSI vs TCP/IP.  Standards can often seem to end up being more about the politics and favouring one vendor over another than any notion of user benefit, though they always describe themselves as such.

In the cloud, we're too early for standard committees to come rubber stamping standards in the space, the de factos are forming and so we should let them form.  Of course we could do all sorts of things with legislation to make cloud adoption easier.

So, overall ...

1) Do I like Prism ... yes, and god bless America and the NSA for handing this golden opportunity to us.

2) Do I think we should brutalise Trade Agreements by exploiting PRISM and the breach of trust ... oh yes, absolutely.

3) Do I think we should be prepared to go the whole hog, ban US services and create a 100 billion Euro investment fund for small tech start-ups in Europe to boost the market ... oh yes, without hesitation.

4) Do I think the EC should build a cloud ... oh frack no. Let the market do that. We don't need some massive cost over run of an IT blunder outsourced to the same sort of companies that have failed to exploit the shift to cloud and been living of overcharging governments.

5) Do I think the EC should create standards for the cloud ... oh frack no and double frack no. Let the market do that. We don't want a set of imposed standard that users don't want because some standards body committee wants to earn its keep by 'helping'.


Update 1st Sept 2013

I was recently asked what impact do I think PRISM will have on the cloud industry? Well, ignoring any gaming (e.g. renegotiation of trade, tax position and the potential long shot of a 'freedom forge' play) then any impact is likely to be confined to those who have inertia to the change anyway.

Many of these laggards were always likely to hold up against using cloud for as long as possible and PRISM is just another excuse in a long list.  Beyond this I can't see PRISM having any material effect whatsoever or if it does, it'll be minimal and short lived.

This whole situation reminds me of the late 1990s / early 2000s and the resistance against e-commerce because it "wasn't secure", "most people are not going to use a credit card online", "it dis-intermediates our existing channels", "people want to go into shops and have the personal touch of meeting a sales rep", "we're a relationship business" and any other excuse that could be found.  Many of those companies who finally did take the plunge often built their own online payment systems because somehow "in-house security was better".

The idea of using a third party payment system such as a company like PayPal was general frowned upon by certain groups and considered fairly risky. Did this stop the change ... nope.

Is PRISM going to stop cloud ... nope.