Amazon's WikiLeaks decision hurts the cloud case

Amazon’s ignominious dumping of WikiLeaks as a customer almost went unnoticed, except by myself, and a few others, including the venerable Wall Street Journal.

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee had contacted Amazon after accusing WikiLeaks of illegal, outrageous and reckless acts, compromising national security and putting scores of lives at risk. At the time, Senator Lieberman said that he would be asking Amazon about the extent of its relationship with WikiLeaks and “what it and other web service providers are doing to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen classified material in future.” Not long after, Amazon cut off its services to WikiLeaks.

Amazon followed by releasing a statement supporting their actions that their terms of service state that, “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.”

WikiLeaks struck back saying that, “If Amazon was so uncomfortable with the first amendment (of the US Constitution), they should get out of the business of selling books.” Others have questioned why the New York Times and other prominent US publications that published the very same content as WikiLeaks had not suffered the same fate from their hosts?

Perhaps, the most disturbing opinion, for our industry, came from Ben Rooney writing in the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Europe that Amazon’s actions may have threatened the very future of Cloud Computing! It seems that Amazon may have highlighted every potential cloud users worst fears, that of security and availability of data.

 

Rooney quoted Dr Joseph Reger, Chief Technology Officer for Fujitsu Technology Solutions, saying, “Amazon’s reason: WikiLeaks violated its terms and conditions. This is bad news for the new IT paradigm of cloud computing. If a provider can terminate its service that easily, then it is doing exactly what skeptics expect, putting the security and availability of cloud services into question. Many potential customers for cloud computing services will, I fear, have been paying attention and will now be forced to reconsider whether they can afford to make their IT that dependent on a third party. Cloud-computing’s reputation has been damaged. For IT, this is the real tragedy.”

Dr Reger went on to say, “It is all a matter of trust, clients have been worried about the security of their data by attacks on their provider. Now they have to worry about their data by attacks by their provider.” He said the whole episode highlighted the need for the nascent cloud industry to work together and produce industry-wide codes of practice. He cautioned people considering moving to the cloud to look very closely at the Service Level Agreement (SLA) they were signing.

This is not news for industry bodies like the TM Forum where the issue of security constantly heads the concerns of potential users. Amazon’s actions, for whatever reason, with such a high profile Cloud customer may have done considerable damage to the Cloud cause.

Of course, for those particularly incensed by Amazon’s actions, protesting with their wallets by not buying anything via Amazon may be the most effective means of showing displeasure. No doubt, just as many will be more than happy to support the actions. Either way, the dark clouds around the whole WikiLeaks saga continue to roll in.
 

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