The fallout from the NSA leaks poses a great opportunity to local service providers and non-US vendors if they can deliver a quality SaaS package hosted in-country. More and more companies are starting to see data sovereignty in a new light while Google, Microsoft and the rest of silicon valley are busy fighting a defensive battle petitioning the US FISA court to be able to just disclose how much user data they were forced to hand over.
A conference full of hosting operators and providers is as good a place as any to gauge whether the fallout from the Snowden NSA files have indeed changed attitudes towards US cloud providers and US companies. On the sidelines of World Hosting Days in Singapore this week, I was busy asking questions to get a feel of the real world away from the crypto-geeks who make up my immediate group of friends.
Simon Piff, AVP for Enterprise Infrastructure at IDC, said that the cloud skeptics have used the issue as the last nail in their argument to not use cloud, and that those with highly sensitive data did have genuine concerns. But beyond these two extremes, there was no major slowdown from his observations.
Wone Hoe Chan from Open X-Change was happy to plug plug SaaS email, collaboration and now word processor offerings on a proud made-in-Germany note as a viable alternative to Google Docs and Office 365 (well, with presentations to follow later), and one that was to be sold through local hosts and ISPs with their branding on top. Under this model, data would remain in-country, addressing these concerns and providing much lower latency as well.
Interestingly it was perhaps the SSL vendors, of which there were many at WHD, who shrugged it off. Given the specifics of the Der Spiegel report that said the underlying encryption protocols of the internet had been broken (which most agree means SSL and HTTPS), these vendors would, one would have thought, had the most to lose.
One shrugged it off, saying that sales had never been better. Another said that the report was probably dated and besides, 1024-bit certificates were going to be depreciated by the end of the year in favour of larger, harder to crack keys. He actually said that the NSA files were a good wake-up call to get users to exchange their certificates for stronger ones.
A chap by the name of Dilendra Wimalasekere, CEO of 24/7 Techies, approached me during a break. He sells outsourced support for a whole variety of SaaS platforms for hosts and telcos to support their users, and said that in Europe the issue was much more pronounced with a genuine fear of US companies, but not so much in Asia just yet. One example was Google analytics. Until recently, everyone used Google Analytics as a matter of course as it was so easy to use, but in the past few weeks he’s seen so many of the users he deals with move off it in the wake of the NSA revelations.
But it was Parallels CEO Birger Steen who gave the most direct answer to my questions, even though by the time I met him at the end of the day, even I was getting tired of asking about the NSA files given the wall of indifference I was facing from most of the conference attendees.
“Are people shunning hosting as a delivery model or cloud? Absolutely not. Are hosting providers standing up asking questions whether they should set up their own clouds or syndicate clouds that are open throughout the world, including the US? Yes they are,” he said before saying that it was a huge opportunity for local providers, provided that they are able to deliver quality hosted products.
Pushing on, while still behaving lest I get ejected from the roundtable, I asked how much insight into customers’ operations Parallels had as a vendor. Steen said that all they saw was contractual for billing purposes.
“We’ve had requests by governments for lawful intercept, but everything stays in country so we’re not good at that,” he said, reading my mind as to my next question.