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3/16/2010
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Cloud Connect: U.S. IT In Forefront

The Cloud Connect conference opens with a warning on how the rest of the world views the U.S.-driven cloud computing phenomenon.

Thanks to cloud computing, information now flows over national borders with an ease that alarms some governments.

It's typical in the U.S. for companies to sell a set of new technology products and move on before government, either here or abroad, takes much interest. But cloud computing is different, warned Dan Elron, Accenture's managing partner for technology strategy, at the opening of the Cloud Connect conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

Elron, who regards cloud computing current state as "a supranational phase" of the expansion of the Internet, made his remarks before about 290 attendees in an auditorium of the Santa Clara Convention Center.

Federal CIO Vivek Kundra has publicly defined cloud computing as a key part of the U.S. government's IT strategy, somewhat ahead of the business world. Governments abroad are both intrigued and alarmed by its possibilities, Elron added.

The large data centers being built for access over the Internet by Amazon, Google, Microsoft and other vendors "break down national boundaries," Elron noted. Both Google and Microsoft have built or are building data centers in the major economies around the world, where anyone with an account may access and use them.

Governments in Europe and other parts of the world are concerned that cloud computing is a U.S.-based development that may compel them to adopt online practices that they did not anticipate or originate. "Governments are worried about vendor lock-in, the security of their data and privacy of their citizens, Elron added.

With cloud computing still at an early stage, both the U.S. government and the technology industry need to figure out how to offer examples avoiding vendor lock-in and setting standards to protect data in the cloud. If cloud suppliers proceed on a strictly competitive and proprietary basis, as previous waves of disruptive technology have, it will retard adoption of cloud computing in many parts of the world, Elron warned.

Business as usual will inhibit widespread cloud adoption. "The faster we take on these issues as an industry, the more we'll achieve," he said.

Two of his follow up speakers illustrated why cloud users elsewhere in the world may be concerned about where U.S. practices may be taking them. Guy Rosen, CEO of Vircado, a mobile/cloud technology startup that does market research, illustrated how it is possible to derive figures on the size of existing clouds, despite the suppliers viewing that information as proprietary.

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