Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The cloud barriers Canada must overcome

The president of the Canadian Cloud Council dicusses the cultural issues that may be leading organizations to miss out on opportunities to transform themselves for the future.

Why are Canadians not adopting cloud services at a rate consistent with other leading G20 countries?
In a recent conversation I had with Alistair Croll, Founder at BitCurrent and Canadian Cloud Council board member, we both felt that the issue may be twofold.  Although there are certainly technology-related barriers to entry, the issue may also be related to Canadian culture in general.

First of all, cloud is perceived as risky, and Canadians are risk-averse and typically late adopters of most everything. Look no further than legislation on capital gains, ultra-conservative banking regulation, house pricing, and myriad other things that are driven out of risk- adverse policy and cultural conservatism.  The concept that “cloud is risky” is a nuanced discussion. Depending on whether you’re using public or private clouds, and whether you’re talking SaaS, PaaS, or IaaS, your risks could be derived from data leakage, cost and operational inefficiency, vendor lock-in, cultural mismanagement, or network security.

The two things that the Canadian Cloud Council are doing to fix the potential misconception that “cloud is risky” are to explain the nuances so Canadian consumers evaluate risk more intelligently and holistically; and reset the expectations of cloud adoption so people realize that the risk isn’t about adopting clouds, it’s about not doing so and getting beaten by faster, more focused, more agile competitors who overcome traditional barriers to entry.

Second of all, cloud (like the Internet) is inherently multinational and it is possible that we created an artificial borders problem. Saying “the Canadian cloud” doesn’t mean much; it’s like saying “the Canadian Internet.” With most of our TV shows and films coming from the US, there’s no reason to expect that we’ll maintain our national identity in the long haul without a significant amount of effort. If a company uses Google Mail, Dropbox, Expensify, Salesforce, Freshbooks, Tripit, and a bunch of other cloud services, perhaps only one or a few of them are Canadian.

Does the end user of the consumable cloud service really care about data sovereignty or where a cloud service resides?  Or, does the issue reside only with the CIO who may be fighting the “Shadow IT” brigade anyways?  The Canadian Cloud Council is educating Canadian corporations on how to drive effective cultural change management processes within an organization so cloud is provisioned and operationalized in a unified, measured and ROI driven fashion.  If both the business and technology side of an organization build a cloud strategy in unison, understand the risks and rewards of the cloud in unison and actively support the operational process in unison, it has as much better chance of successful execution and acceleration.

If we want to encourage domestic cloud initiatives, we’re essentially pushing for protectionism and the need to keep things at home; the history of the Internet shows that information tends to ignore such things, and it’s like putting toothpaste back in the tube. So what we really want to do is make sure the legislation is practical and pragmatic, and gives Canadians a level playing field against other countries when using or building cloud services.