Hiding the truth is the Silicon Valley way

Why don't we know why Amazon's cloud crashed? Why did it take Apple so long to explain its use of location data? Because tech vendors know stonewalling has no penalty

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Furthermore, such issues are not just a matter for privacy-conscious consumers to worry about. If Apple is playing fast and loose with location data, IT managers have a right and a duty to be sure that iPhones and iPads don't have other gaping security holes as they take their place in the enterprise.

Apple finally fessed up on Wednesday. But what was the company thinking in the meantime? Not only did it give itself a boatload of bad publicity (its problem, not ours), but it likely made life that much harder for business users and IT staffers, who are fighting their bureaucracies to win acceptance for mobile computing devices in the enterprise. Apple knows that battle is raging, so you'd think the company would want to reassure people the issue was simply not particularly significant.

That's not the Apple way, as we've repeatedly seen. Not only did the company pretend that Antennagate wasn't happening a year ago, it ignored a far more serious problem (from IT's point of view) when it allowed iPhones and iPod Touches to falsely report to Exchange servers that they support on-device encryption. As my colleague Galen Gruman commented at the time, it was a fundamental betrayal of trust. So where's the consequence?

Amazon.com's silence on its cloud crash only reinforces cloud reliability fears
Then there's Amazon.com. The company's popular EC2 (Elastic Computing Cloud) and Relational Database Services went down last week, leaving heavily trafficked websites and services such as Reddit, Foursquare, and Hootsuite crippled or outright disabled for a good portion of the workday.

Unlike the Apple location misadventure, the Amazon outage had immediate business consequences for EC2 customers in the form of lost sales, lost data, and serious inconvenience. I have no doubt that a lot of IT managers, already somewhat nervous about entrusting key processes to servers outside their control, are being called on the carpet by CEOs made furious by business lost because of the outages. What's worse, of course, is the reinforced perception that cloud computing is still dangerous and immature.

Given that, you'd think that Amazon.com would fall all over itself, giving specifics of why it happened and what steps it is taking to ensure that it won't happen again. But it hasn't. If I were running Amazon Web Services, I'd go further: Amazon.com should be initiating a discussion about levels of services and the need for disaster recovery. Let's face it -- outages are going to happen, and Amazon.com might as well admit it and help customers prepare.

Maybe I'm old-fashioned. But I taught my kids that if they messed up, their dad would stay cool if they admitted what they had done. I don't think expecting the same quality of behavior from vendors is asking too much. But until customers and shareholders give them a spanking, why would anything change? In fact, it will only get worse -- as most tech companies won't tell you.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill.snyder@sbcglobal.net. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Hiding the truth is the Silicon Valley way," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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