Microsoft left TechEd with a full tank of gas and dreams of glory, only to be dashed by a single report over unfettered access, by the U.S. government, to the accumulating personal data of every American citizen.
Unless you have been living under a rock (surprisingly, it seems some do) you are now aware of the covert, U.S. citizen spying program called PRISM and the fact that the U.S. government is actively tracking citizen cell phone calls. Even though there have been statements issued and rebuttals lofted, the fact remains that the U.S. government is embroiled in obtaining data stored in the Cloud of major Cloud vendors to supposedly head-off terrorist activity. Without getting into the politics of it all, despite the program being instituted several years ago, the current administration is taking the biggest hit due to extending and expanding the program but also because so many whistleblowers have come forward recently on numerous other Watergatesque activities. There's very little credibility left, so any news coming out of Washington now seems plausible and scary.
But, more than that, all that the Cloud is and its future has just taken a monumental thrashing.
At TechEd 2013, there were many, many announcements made around improvements to the Microsoft Cloud, and the future was starting to look extremely bright when just 3 years ago IT was audibly scoffing at Microsoft's Cloud roadmap.
Talking with some Microsoft sources over the weekend, there are those that are now considerably worried. Microsoft was one of the major companies implicated in the reports that the NSA had direct connections to the vendor's network. Microsoft left TechEd with a full tank of gas and dreams of glory, only to be dashed by a single report over unfettered access, by the U.S. government, to the accumulating personal data of every American citizen. And, even if the reports end up being partially inaccurate, it has woken up a lot of people and got them thinking. For those that were against the Cloud to begin with, it gives them renewed vigor, and for those that were starting to succumb to the allure of the Cloud, it has shaken them out of a lemming stupor.
It's actually a bit humorous to me to think the government actually needs direct access. I watch what my friends and acquaintances post on Facebook and believe I have just as much access to see what is going on in the world. The amount of personal (too personal) information that is posted on the social networks is enormous, detailing almost every aspect of people's lives, most of which I could live without knowing. I regularly read through my Facebook news feed and utter "TMI" in my head – sometimes out loud. Social networks have desensitized all of us to privacy and decorum.
The next few weeks and months will be interesting. It will be less interesting to see how the current administration weasels its way out of the limelight, but more interesting to see how the public reacts to the Cloud. All of the Cloud proponents like BYOD and Big Data will be further scrutinized over the next few months.
But, more importantly, I'm curious to see how the major vendors will react. How many of them will distance themselves from PRISM - if they can (and they should)? What will they do to reassure companies of security and privacy? How long will it take for the Cloud to recover?
Microsoft still has something going for it, though. While they are building functionality for Windows Azure with a "Cloud First" mantra (announced at TechEd 2013 North America), they are also a single source for the Hybrid Cloud. Companies like Google, who rely on the Cloud to monetize you and your communications, have no clue about the Enterprise or how it works. In fact, Google has shown that they simply don't care about the Enterprise. This clearly puts Microsoft in the driver's seat, being able to give customers datacenter technology that can still be controlled, secured, and maintained within the corporate walls.
What do you think? Has the news of PRISM shaken your trust in the Cloud?