Watch out: The feds want to regulate the cloud

Government regulation could have a chilling effect on cloud computing and complicate what should be simple and dynamic

On June 16, the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest think tanks in Washington, D.C., hosted a panel on the proposals in the Cloud Computing Act of 2011. According to the institute, "Discussion included an overview of the international policy implications as governments and firms adjust to a coherent legal framework, changes and innovations in public procurement, and challenges for private industry as it balances consumer needs and compliance with these proposed cloud computing safeguards."

Despite my years of cloud experience, I've never heard of any of the panelists who participated. Perhaps their well-funded PR and marketing teams got them in.

[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

The danger is that the movement toward these types of regulations could happen in a vacuum, ducking most media scrutiny (the government's attempts to regulate cloud computing have gone woefully underreported) and without input from the truly knowledgeable experts. Industry thought leaders and major providers should be chiming in on this right now because the regulators don't seem to get it.

IT has leveraged cloudlike mechanisms for years. What's changed now is that cloud computing is mainstream, and many in the world of IT focus on it as the next big thing. Naturally, the government is interested in what that could mean.

As cloud computing becomes more of a force in government and the private sector, the feds will try to control its use, both nationally and internationally. For example, government officials could force IT shops to use a third party to maintain data deemed personal or private, and the third party will be required to implement defined policies and procedures. Such a requirement would eliminate the flexible value of leveraging the cloud.

Although the regulators' intentions are generally good -- as is pavement of the road to hell in the familiar saying --  they simply aren't sufficiently educated on the use of cloud computing and what it could mean to both business and government. The true value of the cloud is to simplify enterprise computing, as well as make it more cost-effective. Adding any type of regulation would make cloud computing more complex and expensive -- undoing its very value proposition.

So, federal government, please butt out. If policy makers have a legitimate role, it's what the Software and Information Industry Association is urging: a focus on promoting standards, not creating laws that would limit the value of cloud computing.

This article, "Watch out: The feds want to regulate the cloud," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.