Apple Partially Switches From AWS To Google Cloud, Reports Say - InformationWeek

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3/17/2016
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Apple Partially Switches From AWS To Google Cloud, Reports Say

Apple is teaming up with rival Google to move some of its iCloud business onto the Google Cloud Platform. The move comes as Apple looks to diversify its cloud presence.

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Apple is turning to rival Google to host some of its iCloud business on the Google Cloud Platform as it expands its own multi-billion dollar data center infrastructure, according to reports.

The iconic computer and device maker reportedly struck a $400 million to $600 million deal with Google around the end of last year, in which it will move a portion of its iCloud business from Amazon Web Services to the Google Cloud, according to a CRN report.

Apple uses both Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft's Windows Azure to store encrypted chunks of users' files, according to Apple's iOS Security report. Here is what it specifically had to say about its iCloud and use of cloud vendors:

iCloud stores a user's contacts, calendars, photos, documents, and more and keeps the information up to date across all of his or her devices, automatically. iCloud can also be used by third-party apps to store and sync documents as well as key values for app data as defined by the developer. Users set up iCloud by signing in with an Apple ID and choosing which services they would like to use. iCloud features, including My Photo Stream, iCloud Drive, and Backup, can be disabled by IT administrators via a configuration profile. The service is agnostic about what is being stored and handles all file content the same way, as a collection of bytes.

Each file is broken into chunks and encrypted by iCloud using AES-128 and a key derived from each chunk's contents that utilizes SHA-256. The keys, and the file's metadata, are stored by Apple in the user's iCloud account. The encrypted chunks of the file are stored, without any user-identifying information, using third-party storage services, such as Amazon S3 and Windows Azure.

It is not clear whether Google's role is similar to that of Amazon S3, in which encrypted file chunks are stored within the vendor's cloud without the encryption keys, or whether Apple is not only doing that but expanding Google's role in the cloud. For example, could an Apple-Google partnership provide a way for Apple to give up access to its users' iCloud encryption keys, yet still provide users with the ability to manage and access their data and information without Apple's intervention? Apple, which is currently in a heated battle with the FBI over its encryption, has previously stated it will able by court orders to turn over user's data and information if it is "technically able" to comply.

(Image: zmeel/iStockphoto)

(Image: zmeel/iStockphoto)

Google Cloud also is tied with the Internet giant's BigQuery data analytics platform, which may serve as a selling point to Apple for moving its business away from AWS to Google, observes a report in TechCrunch.

Apple's decision to add the Google Cloud Platform comes as it diversifies its Internet services, which includes its iCloud offering, notes the Financial Times.

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Apple may also later bring more of its iCloud services in-house, as it plans to add three more data centers to the four it currently operates in the next two years, according to the Financial Times. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley estimates that Apple shells out roughly $1 billion annually to AWS, which it could chip away at if it were to move more of that data and information onto its own data centers, notes CRN.

Amazon, according to reports, would still retain some of Apple's business, however.

A spokesperson for Amazon's AWS told InformationWeek, "It's kind of a puzzler to us because vendors who understand doing business with enterprises respect NDAs with their customers and don't imply competitive defection where it doesn't exist."

Apple declined to comment, and Google did not respond to requests for comment.

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
3/17/2016 | 7:14:39 PM
Even a competitor's cloud has benefits
Interesting move, given that Apple has built or is building its own data centers in Prineville, Ore., and Maiden, N.C. It's already active on AWS and Azure. Google analytics may be a draw, but Google offers the option of flexible, configure it yourself servers, which may also be a selling point. The others don't. An effective cloud platform beneifts the user, even if offered by a competitor.
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