3 ways the NSA scandal will benefit cloud computing

Most in the cloud computing world are still considering the negative effects of the NSA scandal. However, there are certain areas that may find that the NSA’s spying is actually a net positive.

As I wrote in last week’s update, “While there is not a direct link to cloud computing, there are certain aspects of this situation that may have both existing and future public cloud computing consumers a bit more paranoid than before they heard about the NSA scandal. Moreover, other countries that leverage U.S.-based public cloud computing services, that are already paranoid around the use of the Patriot Act to potentially seize their data, now have last week’s revelation to consider as well.”

After a week of many blogs and many online debates, I’m not sure that the NSA spying scandal will change many enterprise directions to cloud computing. I have, however, heard that a few of these enterprises will be a bit cautious around security and privacy issues when considering social networking and BYOD programs.

Overall, cloud computing continues to be on their radar. A few who were on the fence are using the NSA issues as an excuse to push back on cloud computing, and that much would have been true even if the NSA story hadn’t happened.

So, will there be some net benefits to the cloud computing market that arise from the NSA scandal?  I see a few:

1. Cloud security awareness and use of the right security technology.  Cloud security technology has always been important, but mostly in concept. Those implementing public and private cloud-based systems often consider security an afterthought, even though it should be designed into the first- and second-generation solutions.

Even those who are paranoid that the government or foreign hackers will bust into the corporate database have taken a less-than-solid approach to security. With the scandal, it seems to be cool to both spend some money on security technology (such as federated identity-based solutions) as well as spend the time it takes to design security as systemic to the cloud computing solution. It’s not simply a bolt-on solution.

2. Awareness around where your data resides.  In many instances, when you turn your data over to a public cloud provider you may find that it’s replicated all over the world, depending upon how those providers run their clouds. Storage replication across borders is commonplace, typically as an approach to improving performance and providing disaster recovery capabilities.

Considering the NSA scandal, many enterprises, especially those outside of the U.S. borders, are now very aware as what to happens to their data once it’s stored on cloud-based storage systems or cloud-based databases. This is because that data may enter countries where the laws around data protection and privacy are not as well enforced, or perhaps countries that have polices such as the U.S., where data can be accessed for national security reasons. Or when there is a chance that your data could be collocated with data from a criminal organization and perhaps seized along with the data from the bad guy.

3. A likelihood that the government will take it easy with the data gathering, as well as disclose. The NSA scandal brought to light that, while we did not mind that the government monitored our personal data after September 11, 2001, we do mind it now. Most surveys show that many not that upset about the NSA spying scandal. Indeed, most of us expect the government to cull through some of our information, as do many corporations.

However, the tide is turning. It appears that the lawmakers are hearing the outcries around the issues with the data gathering efforts of the NSA. Over the next few years, lawmakers will likely take steps to limit and monitor the NSA and other intelligence organizations as to what data they gather, and for what reasons. If you get to the root of the issue, it was not that the NSA gathered the data, it was that those who created or owned the data were not informed. Figure that disclosure will be the new trend, and that will extend to data maintained on public clouds.

Every cloud does not have a silver lining. It will take some time for the bad vibes that sprung from the NSA scandal to go away. However, there are also positive outcomes to things like this, and it’s helpful to understand the positive effects as we move beyond the scandal.

Cloud computing won’t suffer much from this. The hyper growth is likely to continue, and we’ll get smarter as we continue to deploy systems in the cloud. It won’t matter if the NSA or other agencies monitor our data, or not. I suspect this scandal will be a non-issue in a year’s time.