Posted by: Christian Verstraete | December 13, 2009

Supply Chain Data and the Cloud

A couple days ago I commented a blog entry titled “Top of Mind – Data in the Cloud”. Unfortunately, the discussion moved into an other direction, focusing on the government data available in the cloud.

I believe however, the debate is much larger. It is one thing to use cloud computing to augment computing capacity, it’s another to put company data in the cloud. Indeed, such data is maintained in systems that are open to the internet, often in a “multi-tenant” database. Rightly or wrongly so, there are security concerns regarding such approach. These security concerns have multiple origins:

  • Can an external party get access to the data, either during transfer between my own systems and the cloud service, or when the data is located in the service itself. Most cloud service providers do not document their levels of security so no information is available on how the data is actually protected.

  • To provide 99.95% uptime, the cloud service providers need to replicate the data in multiple locations to ensure operations when the original site goes down. This happened to Amazon earlier this week. If I decide to remove the data from the cloud, what guarantee do I have that all instances of the data are removed?

  • Where is my data located? I know that question goes straight against the concept of cloud services. Unfortunately legislation such as the US Patriot Act makes my data vulnerable as it gives legal access to US law enforcement. Some countries also force data to reside within their own boundaries.

  • I expect my data to be backed up as part of the service I receive. Here again, what happens to that data is unclear.

So, let me be provocative for a moment. Does my data really needs to reside in the cloud, or could I use cloud services to give me the appropriate compute power to analyse data that reside in my own systems. The data would then only reside transiently in the cloud, as part of the execution of my programs, and then be destroyed when my VM machine is released.

I could envisage that partners in a supply chain ecosystem each maintain their portion of the data under their responsibility, and only transfer the necessary data when requested by the cloud. In doing so, I avoid the headaches described above. Let me know what you think.

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