IBM has filed a patent for a technique that will automatically manage cloud data across geographic regions, claiming it will allow client companies to comply with regulations governing where data can be stored in different countries and continents.
"During the early years of cloud computing, it was evident that storing and accessing business data across geographically dispersed cloud computing environments could present logistical and regulatory challenges," said IBM's Sandeep Ramesh Patil, co-inventor of the patent.
"Our team of inventors designed a system that will allow businesses to efficiently manage and move data in the cloud, while meeting required compliance mandates in different countries."
Although IBM waited until August 8 to announce the new technique, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published the patent on March 18. The patent was first filed with the USPTO on September 23, 2010.
The patent, #8,676,593, geographic governance of data over clouds, outlines methods and systems for "controlling a geographic region of data in cloud computing".
The abstract describes a "method implemented in a computer infrastructure including a combination of hardware and software includes: receiving a request from a local computing device to save data on a network including a plurality of data storage locations in a plurality of different geographic regions."
The technology does this by analysing either file attributes associated with the data, or predefined rules — identifying one of the plurality of data storage locations within the specified geographic region based on the determining step, and "routing the data to the identified one of the plurality of data storage locations within the specified geographic region".
According to IBM, the invention allows companies to mark or tag their data and use an intelligent cloud management system to store files in the appropriate location.
The patent was published by the USPTO just three months prior to a court ruling in the US ordering Microsoft to hand over foreign data to US authorities.
In July, a US judge ordered Microsoft to hand over the data, despite strong privacy protections in Europe, after finding that, because the company is headquartered in the US, the data it controls — even overseas — are just as applicable to US law.
That ruling paves the way for international users of Microsoft's services — and others headquartered in the US, including Apple, Google, and Twitter — to lose immunity from having their data passed over to the US government for law enforcement or intelligence purposes.