Steve Wozniak's blog about why the cloud sucks has attracted a lot of attention — and he makes a good core point about regulation. Although he mainly talks about cloud from a personal perspective, what he says is also interesting from an enterprise perspective.
Woz's main point is that: "I've come to a depressed state of feeling that I own nothing on the cloud and have no ability to keep things working the way they do." Elaborating, he says that cloud services operators can and do change and drop features without so much as a by-your-leave.
Because his cloud-based calendar could be messed about with, he issued his siren call for regulation of cloud providers.
"I believe that regulation applies to banks and that money lost due to no fault of your own is replaced, at least for large amounts. Why not for the cloud, as well?"
He has a point. Cloud providers are perhaps less likely to chop and change their service offerings to enterprises, where much more money is at stake and where continuity is probably the highest currency, but cloud provision is always going to be a movable feast.
Technology changes fast and services will inevitably reflect changes in the infrastructure, as cloud providers find it becomes less cost effective to deliver a service using older processes and technologies. This situation will change and, in this, I'm a bit more bullish than Woz, who says that he "expect[s] this sort of occurrence to get worse over time".
Tend to monopoly
That's because markets tend to monopoly. The companies at the top get fatter and will retain bigger reserves to handle technology shifts, delivering new services enabled by new technology while keeping older services going in the cause of continuity.
Larger enterprises also have more options. They can choose to host all or some of those services themselves in private clouds, retaining complete control over the infrastructure and the pace of change. Enterprises are also more knowledgeable, and more likely to do due diligence before opening their wallets.
All that said, though, I think there's a place for regulation in the cloud, especially for personal use. People are encouraged to use cloud as an alternative to storing stuff in their homes or wherever. The demand is in part a consequence of the burgeoning number of devices we use and carry about. You want that data available everywhere, irrespective of hardware platform.
Given that much of that data is likely to be highly sensitive, and that cloud use has moved outside geekery and is now being pushed at the less technologically knowledgeable, a form of safety net seems increasingly appropriate.
It's analogous to the early days of telecommunications. Whether it's data protection in the form of encryption, whether it's a commitment to ensuring that certain safeguards are applied to personal cloud-based data, whether it's a guarantee that people can retrieve their data at any time and in a format that allows them to use it and move it to another provider, cloud providers should be held to account.
The banks touted market forces and self-regulation as the best protection for customers. Not so. The same applies to cloud providers.