Open Clouds – Litigation Mature

I was sat on the plane coming back from Switzerland last night reading a variety of PDF's on my iPad I'd saved locally for research. The topic in my head was litigation in the Cloud and what the local and  international topics are around Cloud especially if you are contracting your Cloud presence to an outsourced third party.

In 2006 I launched litigation against one of the world's largest software companies and reached out of court settlement and payment of my costs and taxes, an exercise that I hope to never have to repeat. It started when one of their bloggers wrote an article on their load balanced geo-located mirrored public facing servers that then said something silly, inaccurate and litigious. It was a very large personal financial risk to launch legal action, a terrifying wake up call but successful in that they gave me a lot of money to go away and paid my attorney fees. I don't feel great that I won but it did teach me a valuable lesson in civility and in technology within the confines of the law. It also meant an exercise in cache scrubbing at the major search engines the costs of which must have dwarfed the damages I received - that I then donated in full to charity.

So having been through the pain personally of taking on an 800lb gorilla and having to personally fund legal action against their bottomless pockets it struck me that there is a new world order due right about now. When I launched my action, given I was taking on a company who have over $100bn of assets you had to have a good case and finding an attorney who understood the internet, storage, transmission as well as reputation and procedure.

I then sat on the plane with my wire-bound Red Hat notebook and looked at a typical service provider architecture taking into account key encryption and regular service level statements from providers I am aware of and started scrawling. One thing became very clear very quickly. If it had jumped off the page and illuminated the entire interior of the Airbus it wouldn't have been any brighter and more obvious.

Cloud is going to make wealthy legal practices even richer. Specialist paralegals and their research agents are going to enjoy a bumper pay packet in years to come and if I was a student studying for my law finals right now I'd be specialising in Cloud based eDiscovery and data collection methodology. A scant search of the internet results in not one academic institution globally who has picked up on this opportunity for specialisation. It will happen - you read it here first.

If you're serious about understanding service provision in the hosting arena and are thinking about drawing up service level agreements you first research exactly the liability of your provider cousins in the ecosystem. You then take independent advice from paid counsel and you print off a copy of the annually publised Fulbright & Jaworski 2011 Litigation Trends Survey, an independent survey of senior corporate counsel. You can read the 2011 edition here in PDF format - registration required. They break down litigation areas of growth and concern across business verticals such as Communications and Technology, HealthCare, Financial Services, Energy and Insurance etc etc. The one we're obviously interested in is Communications and Technology, there are both US and UK sections - I'm using the UK version below but the US version is just as well researched.

Once you've downloaded it - go read the section:

"Businesses may also face further issues in connection with new forms of data storage including 'cloud computing'. One in three (30%) UK respondents reported utilising cloud computing. One half (50%) of UK respondents using cloud computing have already reported having to preserve and/or collect data from the cloud in connection with actual or threatened litigation, disputes or investigations. More than one in ten (13%) UK respondents not yet using the cloud expressed an intention to move software or data to the cloud in the next 12 months.Worryingly, some 16% of all respondents did not know whether their companies stored data in the 'cloud'."

Then once you're done reading the Cloud / eDiscovery specific sections read Barry Murphy's excellent Forbes article on eDiscovery in Cloud. If you then do your homework  and look at how an Open Cloud compares architecturally to a more locked in layered Cloud architecture with abstraction layers and layers of complexity and retrofitted controls then you look at how CloudForms and using RHEV/KVM gets you to Cloud it becomes screamingly obvious.

A correctly built and architectured Open Cloud be it Private, Public or a blended Hybrid model does one thing properly - it is documented sufficiently to allow risk model mapping and data storage decisions easier on the part of the provider and the customer or the private customer using tools such as CloudForms to provision and deploy.It's certainly going to speed up eDiscovery and it's certainly not going to be as popular on an hourly fees basis for the attorneys charged with researching litigation claims in Cloud.With clear open shared API's such as Deltacloud (written by Red Hat and contributed to the Apache Incubator project), encryption, environments and architectures understood and documented it's going to be a reduction in one of the hidden costs of Cloud that nobody is daring talk about or even think about.

Being Open is good - it might just not be popular with the paralegals who are assuming an open checkbook when it comes to research and eDiscovery. By complete accident we gave birth to not just a better way of working in Cloud but we also reduced the future revenue growth of those who see Cloud as a cashcow waiting to happen.What can I say ?

We're just nice people making Cloud a secure capable place to put your work and doing it with transparency. We're getting those workloads to Cloud and we're doing our best to do it in a way that is industry friendly across international boundaries and makes sure people play nicely together.

CloudForms delivers a pretty big punch. The entire focus around delivering a properly defined open hybrid cloud across architectures specific to the needs of enterprise organisations is paramount. Let's just get that top dead centre. But to get to that stage in deployment safely you have to consider the application tier and all related operational capabilities and data. By thinking laterally, embracing CloudForms and realising that being rational that deciding a strategy around open hybrid design is the only way forward allowing you to reap the benefits of using existing applications without introducing costs, risks and issues.

It also helps you play nicer and be able to have that much more control than any other technology out there today.

Can you afford not to look at it ?

Addendum: If anyone can see pagination flow issues with this article I think WordPress have some serious issues in the last twenty four hours. Not a lot I can do as it's been tested in five browsers and the original article flows fine, it's just their posting API which is borked.