At Oracle Open World 2011, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison took a stab at Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff calling Salesforce.com ‘the ultimate vendor lock-in’ and claimed that ‘you can check in but you can’t check out’ of Salesforce.com. I don’t know about you but this immediately reminded me of part of the famous Eagles song, ‘Hotel California’…
‘Relax,’ said the night man, ‘we are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!’
Larry’s argument revolved around the use of proprietary instead of open programming language. Now, I am not saying Larry is right and I am not going to start a debate here on which programming language is open and which is not, but I do have a point to make about the (public) Cloud: the Cloud is programmed to receive.
Checking in and out of IaaS, PaaS and SaaS services at the front desk is easy, but when you checked out, did you really leave? How do you know ‘delete’ really means delete in the Cloud? Just like deleting a file on your computer hard drive does not mean it is gone, a provider may leave traces in the Cloud. If these traces are not encrypted they could be used to reconstruct your original data.
And what if your provider goes bust? What is going to happen with your data? They will likely have your data replicated across multiple servers and geographic locations, what will happen with that?
Data deletion will be of particular concern in highly regulated industries such as financial services, health care, government, or for law firms. But other industries will be concerned just the same. The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) is working on data management interface standards that can guarantee data deletion. But ultimately Cloud providers will have to regulate themselves through bodies such as EuroCloud in Europe. If they don’t, EU security agencies like Enisa will continue to recommend private over public Clouds.
Let’s face it, there are no rules or regulations about Cloud data deletion (yet). Until there are, caveat emptor: you can check out of the Cloud any time, but did you really leave?