Why we need to stop freaking out about the NSA and get on with business

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Maybe the NSA did us a favor. Sure, news of its insatiable data snooping got nearly everyone’s knickers in a twist, but seriously, isn’t this a valuable teaching moment?

Lance Crosby, the executive charged with IBM/SoftLayer’s cloud push, thinks so. Speaking on last week’s Structure Show, Crosby acknowledged that customers outside the U.S. often ask about securing their data from government eyes. His answer? Don’t focus on who’s snooping, protect your data from anyone.

“My response is protect your data against any third party — whether it’s the NSA, other governments, hackers, terrorists, whatever…” he noted. “I say let’s stop worrying about the NSA and start talking about encryption and VPNs and all the ways you can protect yourself. Yes, the NSA got caught, but they’re not the first and won’t be the last.”

Amen to that. Vodaphone, in its just-released Sustainability Report, acknowledged that some unnamed governments don’t even bother to ask before tapping directly into its communications networks.

Per the report (emphasis added):

In most countries, Vodafone maintains full operational control over the technical infrastructure used to enable lawful interception upon receipt of an agency or authority demand. However, in a small number of countries the law dictates that specific agencies and authorities must have direct access to an operator’s network, bypassing any form of operational control over lawful interception on the part of the operator. In those countries, Vodafone will not receive any form of demand for lawful interception access as the relevant agencies and authorities already have permanent access to customer communications via their own direct link.

Some other key points from Crosby’s interview follow, but check out the whole thing — which starts at about minute 18 of the podcast. And don’t forget, Crosby, along with his counterparts from Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft, will be at Structure in just a few weeks.

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On SoftLayer’s technology underpinnings.

“We wrote our own software called IMS that drives all of SoftLayer. From a compute node standpoint, we have three buckets of compute — bare metal, private cloud and public cloud. On our public cloud our virtual machine multi-tenant environment that competes with EC2, Azure and Google is based on XenServer from Citrix. As far as private cloud, we sell VMware, Citrix, Parallels, Hyper-V, Eucalyptus, OpenStack, whatever is next, we fully orchestrate and hand it off to you. We really have no preference because IMS is driving it all. And on bare metal, we can provision anything.”

Lance Crosby CEO of IBM's SoftLayer business.

Lance Crosby CEO of IBM’s SoftLayer business.

On how IBM’s cloud transition is going

“IBM had basically two pieces — SmartCloud Enterprise public cloud and SmartCloud Enterprise Plus, which was the high-touch managed services atop SmartCloud — think of it as SAP as a Service atop their platform. IBM, like many other companies in the world, spun up virtualization and called it cloud and figured out it’s not really a cloud — they’re just exposing virtualization to the world. SmartCloud customers are now on SoftLayer. SmartCloud managed services has moved to SoftLayer as a platform we’re going to do SAP Hana on all sites globally by the end of the year so if you’re a global 1000 company and need 100 SAP seats in 15 countries, you can buy those by the drink now.

“At the time IBM acquired SoftLayer, SoftLayer became infrastructure. Then we launched the Blue Mix PaaS atop SoftLayer and are bringing 150 SaaS properties to SoftLayer. About half are there and the other half will be by the end of the year. And we’re bringing all the middleware that IBM has made for decades like WebSphere and Cognos to SoftLayer.

“The goal by the end of the year is an IBM portfolio of IaaS, SaaS and PaaS consumable, API-driven by the month, by the hour, by the seat, literally thousands of options.”

Will there be cloud consolidation?

“My personal opinion is, I think the four at scale today, IBM, Google, Amazon, Microsoft all on every continent, with economies of scale that the others don’t have and all of us have built our own systems — will be the major players. Below those, [vendors with] much smaller footprints may become niche or regional players or boutique shops.

“I think it’ll be like banks. There are four to five mega giants that compete globally and then there’s a drop to smaller footprint banks — regional or boutique shops because the big guys don’t want to do  that or because the numbers aren’t there.”

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