Amazon's Vogels: Sensitive Data Vs. Snowden Fear - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud // Software as a Service
11:26 AM
Connect Directly

Amazon's Vogels: Sensitive Data Vs. Snowden Fear

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, at Structure 2014 conference, disputes notion that holders of sensitive data will reject cloud after Snowden revelations.

6 Models Of The Modern Data Center
6 Models Of The Modern Data Center
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Business, governments, and consumers are nervous about storing their data in the cloud due to the revelations of NSA snooping by Edward Snowden. This is especially true for Europeans, who have little appetite for making their data subject to US laws.

Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon Web Services and a native of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, agreed with that assessment by Om Malik, chairman of technology news service GigaOm, on Wednesday. Malik interviewed Vogels at GigaOm's seventh annual Structure conference, held Wednesday and Thursday in San Francisco. But Vogels said the Snowden revelations hadn't dampened interest in Amazon's infrastructure-as-a-service.

"Our growth outside the US is as strong as ever," he told close to a thousand attendees at the conference. Amazon offers European customers the option of keeping their data in an Amazon cloud center based in Europe. It's also bringing increasingly sophisticated encryption and other ways of securing data.

Instead of trying to maintain their own security, people should turn to the cloud to store their most private and confidential data, including their private encryption keys, because it can be made secure there, he said in an unusual assertion of EC2's capabilities. In the past, companies have moved development and testing to the cloud for the agility provided there, he said. "AWS should be the place where you put the data you want to protect," he said.

"I see most of this as an opportunity, not as something that is really bad. It's an opportunity to give customers tools to protect themselves," assured Vogels.

[Want to learn more about the cloud's future? See Cloud: Ready To Burst.]

Vogels has been emboldened in his claims for cloud security since Amazon won a $600 million contract to build a cloud operation to be run privately by the CIA -- "cloud for members only," Vogels obliquely referred to it during his Structure appearance. The contract runs over a 10-year period, and Amazon's win survived an IBM protest and court challenge, decided in Amazon's favor last November.

Werner Vogels (Source: Guido van Nispen on Flickr.)
Werner Vogels
(Source: Guido van Nispen on Flickr.)

"I've not yet seen a privacy requirement that can't be addressed by good architecture," he told the Structure conference.

Vogels said customer data integrity, privacy, and confidentiality was an area where cloud vendors could work more cooperatively to reduce fears that the cloud will always be insecure. "It's not a winner-take-all market," he insisted. "We can all work together to get more customers into the cloud," he said.

On a different issue, Diane Bryant, Intel's general manager of its data center group, told attendees that Intel was moving away from its orientation toward consumer parts -- chips for PCs and other consumer devices -- and beginning to produce custom chips for companies that need them by the thousands for servers in a specially designed cloud.

Intel has customized processors from its Xeon family for both eBay and Facebook and is willing to continue the practice for buyers who have large-volume orders to build out cloud data centers, she said. Intel doesn't start from scratch and design a processor to meet a customer's needs. Rather, it combines a Xeon with a field programmable gate array (FPGA), an integrated circuit that can be given instructions to perform algorithms desired by a particular customer.

Bryant said Intel has been working with cloud data center builders as a market segment since 2007, but she didn't say how long the specialized chip sets of Xeons and FPGAs have been produced. The FPGA is placed alongside a Xeon E5 processor, such as Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge, and embedded in a shared package. "The FPGA is married to a Xeon E5 chip ... The FPGA has direct access to the cache hierarchy and system memory of the Xeon CPU," said Bryant. The FPGA chip can then work in tandem with the Xeon, executing special algorithms "to deliver on-demand performance," she added.

The combination allows cloud builders to redesign their server racks, creating "pools of compute, memory, and storage" that can allocated and dynamically re-allocated to an application, depending on the traffic it's experiencing.

Increasingly sophisticated use of the specialized processors will give the cloud "its next big pop in efficiency," she predicted.

Telcos have many functions that they repeat millions of times a day that would benefit from being executed in silicon instead of software. Facebook might use such a specialized processor to tear down photos and store them in parallel data streams, or call them out of storage the same way.

Bryant conceded there was little role for such chips in the general-purpose data center. The "hybrid" chips are best used in Web-scale operations where a single application or a set of functions shared across a few applications is being used at very large scale.

The event also saw Jay Parikh, Facebook's VP of infrastructure, show off a "blue switch" built to Facebook's specifications and now being employed in Facebook data centers. The top-of-rack switch is designed to optimize

Next Page

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
1 of 2
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Lorna Garey
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
6/19/2014 | 12:43:42 PM
Wow ...
Tons of interesting stuff, sounds like a great event. Facebook's TOR switch is exactly what Chambers was talking about when he discussed a significant number of IT vendors disappearing ... and if it WASN'T what he was talking about, it should have been. 


Did Holzle address the recent security issues with containers?
User Rank: Author
6/19/2014 | 3:43:26 PM
Members Only
The members only Amazon cloud for the CIA has the cloud crowd talking on Twitter. No word on whether the deal also included jackets.
Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/19/2014 | 11:26:39 PM
See no evil, keep servers humming
To some extent, I think Amazon's Vogels is practicing hands over the eyes, see no evil. Several speakers cited the drastic drop off in trust in U.S. technology companies. One of the speakers at Structure cited a poll of European business executives that showed "a double digit" drop in trust of U.S. technology companies. Amazon has facilities in Dublin, Ireland. Not everybody has a European data center, although Microsoft and IBM/SoftLayer do.
Why 2021 May Turn Out to be a Great Year for Tech Startups
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  2/24/2021
How GIS Data Can Help Fix Vaccine Distribution
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/17/2021
11 Ways DevOps Is Evolving
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  2/18/2021
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you.
Flash Poll