All the public cloud providers demand one thing from their customers. They want their customers to trust them. Their entire business model is reliant on the idea of trust. It is easy for small and medium businesses to trust the public cloud providers because they lack the necessary financial muscle to build their own IT infrastructure. But enterprise customers are a different kind of species. They can have their own infrastructure and they are more worried about controlling their own destiny than SMBs.
In my post titled Enterprise Cloud Computing and Wikileaks Saga, I argued that public cloud advocates should not dismiss enterprise concerns about losing control and, instead, they should work with public cloud providers and push them to address these concerns.
As an unabashed advocate of public clouds, I feel that we should take the concerns of enterprises seriously and push the public cloud providers to address those concerns effectively. Definitely, one of the biggest concerns is the idea of giving up control. In the past, I have argued against it by saying they need a mental shift. However, I have come to realize that such dismissals of their concerns are rather naive. The loss of control could be a big factor for some. Frankly, today’s public cloud providers are not doing much to build trust with the enterprise customers. Yes, we keep getting press releases about compliance but it is not enough to get the enterprises to trust public cloud providers. Enterprises are still clueless about what is in store if something “bad” happens outside of their control. For many organizations, ceding control may not mean much but for some it means everything.
However, I can definitely say that it is time for public cloud advocates to appreciate and understand the enterprise concerns and, if possible, work with the providers to address such concerns. Only then, we can really move forward towards a world dominated by public cloud services.
When Amazon booted Wikileaks out of their service without a due process, I argued against the arbitrariness of Amazon’s actions (irrespective of whether Wikileaks is right or wrong) and warned that such actions could potentially lead to a lack of trust among enterprises towards public clouds because such arbitrary actions can make public clouds too risky for them.
Remember, when we ask organizations to risk their very existence on public clouds, the actions of public cloud providers should be more responsible and more sensitive to the impact on their clients. I would love to hear your views on this topic and how public cloud providers can mitigate the concerns of the businesses (enterprises, in particular) about such risks to their very existence.
Unfortunately, the post was taken out of context with much of the discussion being centered around the legality of the data put in by Wikileaks while I was more keen on hearing about what we can do to remove the enterprise concerns vis a vis Amazon’s (and Rackspace’s) arbitrary moves on their customers. Check out this WSJ post on the Wikileaks-Amazon saga.
Well, now I have another story that is not politically as touchy as Amazon-Wikileaks story and I want to use it and revisit the issue again. SimpleCDN, a low cost CDN provider, recently had their servers shut off by their upstream provider (UK2 Group who resell the services from Softlayer). According to SimpleCDN, this was an arbitrary move by Softlayer and Hosting Services Inc. who, in turn, was providing the infrastructure to UK2 Group.
Dear SimpleCDN Customer,
I am writing this letter to update you on a situation that has been developing for the past 72 hours between SimpleCDN and our technology and infrastructure providers, SoftLayer and Hosting Services, Inc.
Two days ago these organizations decided to immediately terminate our contract and suspend service on much of our infrastructure in Dallas, Seattle and Washington, D.C. This infrastructure constitutes the majority of our delivery network for our value services, including on-demand and live streaming services.
Absolutely no valid reason or warning was or has been given for this termination, and our best guess currently is that these organizations could not provide the services that we contracted and paid for, so instead they decided that terminating services would be the best solution for them.
We have already started to take legal action against these organizations, however thus far we have not gotten either party to reconsider their position. As it stands now, certain SimpleCDN services will begin to fail within the next few days as additional services are terminated.
We believe the actions of Hosting Services, Inc. and SoftLayer constitute a deliberate attempt to cripple SimpleCDN’s current service offering.
SoftLayer and Hosting Services / UK2 Group also resell “CDN” services at a much higher price point, and it is clear these actions constitute a conspiracy to remove us, and many other corporations affected by their reckless actions, from the marketplace.
I invite you to contact these organizations directly to voice your frustration and opinions on this matter, while we’ll continue to ensure access is available to key services for backing up your data currently contained on the CDN for as long as possible.
Hosting Services, Inc. – UK2 Group Contacts:
President/COO UK2 Group / Hosting Services, Inc.
Support Team at 1-866-398-7638
Lance Crosby, CEO
I understand how difficult this is for you, and for the past two days we have been scrambling to make alternative arrangements, but not enough time has been given to secure additional delivery resources.
Our support team will be available 24/7 at support.simplecdn.com to answer any of your questions, and assist you with alternative services in any way possible.
You may contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org or via our corporate number at 800-269-3033 ext 704.
Chief Engineer, SimpleCDN
Well, right now it is just one side of the story and we haven’t seen any response by Softlayer in this regard. Irrespective of that, this clearly highlights the potential risks for anyone who trusts their entire business on a public infrastructure service provider (whether it is public cloud or traditional hosting doesn’t matter) than their own infrastructure.
An arbitrary action by a public cloud provider (whether on their own or because of the egging by politicians or public citizens) can have disastrous effects on their customers’ business. When I talked about this using Wikileaks story, it was spun out as a “bad organization” getting kicked out by a “provider with conscience”. The SimpleCDN case clearly highlights the risks facing businesses who rely entirely on public infrastructure service provider. Yes, I agree that SimpleCDN may have unknowingly broken some of the terms of Softlayer. My argument is not about whether the provider have the right to terminate the services if their customer break their terms. It is about the due process taken by a provider in terminating the services offered to a customer even if the customer is in violation of any part of their terms. It is my argument that we should have industry standard norms which while protecting the interests of the vendor also helps the customer protect their business from going down the drains.
This is not entirely new to the public cloud business alone but it becomes very important in the case of public clouds because
- Individuals and organizations trust their very existence on the public cloud providers
- The symbiotic relationship between different players in the public cloud ecosystem is more complex than before and the impact of any friction inside the ecosystem will have terrible consequences for the users because of what I have mentioned in the above point
Especially, if we have to get the enterprises trust this complex beast, we need to go much beyond the arbitrary terminations and have a framework for doing business without breaking the trust. We have had different individuals and groups coming out with articles and reports talking about the rights of customers and vendors but so far, they have stayed as just articles and reports. I haven’t seen any followup action in this regard. Some of the efforts include:
- James Urquhart’s The Cloud Computing Bill Of Rights
- Phil Wainewright’s Time for a SaaS Code of conduct
- Ray Wang and Jeremiah Owyang’s Customer Bill of Rights: Software As A Service
With the above said incidents and our much better understanding of cloud computing dynamics today than when the above documents were created, it is possible to create a vendor neutral bill of rights that clearly outlines the rights of the customers across all the stacks in cloud computing. It is time for vendors, cloud evangelists, analysts, journalists, bloggers, customers, etc. to come together for creating a bill of rights that protects the rights of customers while also protecting the vendors’ interests. If we don’t move in and regulate ourselves now, government will step in and regulate this segment. Even though I am not politically against government regulations, I do feel that it should be the absolute last resort. I think the time has come for us to buckle up and work towards a framework acceptable to all the players in the ecosystem. What do you think?
- SimpleCDN has been effectively kicked off the Internet by its ISPs w/o warning (admin.simplecdn.com)
- SimpleCDN – Being Killed By CDN Competitors (VPS.NET)? (andybeard.eu)
- SoftLayer Introduces Build Your Own Cloud (eon.businesswire.com)