Stealing a page from the playbook it used to launch the Liberty Alliance (and undermine Microsoft's Passport service in the process), Sun Microsystems' newly appointed cloud computing chief governance officer, Michele Dennedy, tells me in this podcast how she now has her sights set on forming a similar industry consortium for governance and privacy in the area of cloud computing. Additionally, Dennedy's appointment is one of many ducks that Sun is getting in a row as it gears up to make some allegedly blockbuster cloud computing announcements in New York City on March 18.Based on what I'm hearing on the backchannel, Sun's forthcoming announcements will indeed merit the attention of any enterprise that's considering a move to the cloud. Sun will make its cloud announcements at its CommunityOne East Developer Conference where, in addition to reporting on the news, I'll be moderating the closing panel session with executives from Sun, Google, Salesforce.com, and RightScale (Disclosure: Sun is NOT paying me to moderate this panel and has given me full editorial latitude in terms of questions and guests selection beyond Sun's cloud computing CTO, Lew Tucker.)
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to connect the dots here. Amazon.com's cloud offerings (Elastic Compute Cloud, S3, etc.) are typically invoked by developers via Amazon's Web services application programming interfaces. CommunityOne is a developer event at which Sun will be making some cloud computing announcements, and it has no doubt learned a thing or two from Amazon's success. So the big questions are, what sort of Sun-based cloud will developers be able to invoke and what makes it so special when compared with other market offerings?
According to Dennedy -- a lawyer by trade who was once a member of Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's Liberty Alliance execution team and later Sun's chief privacy officer -- one of the main reasons she accepted Tucker's invitation to join Sun's cloud computing group was because of how her job will involve the conversion of the market's privacy and governance concerns into code that she'll be responsible for baking into Sun's solutions.
Press the tiny play button to listen to my podcast interview with Dennedy. Alternatively, down the left side of the page somewhere (lower left), you should see a tab for exposing the podcast player (clunky, I know).
Amid a complicated labyrinth of multijurisdictional (international) privacy and governance-related regulations, moving to the cloud will be easier said than done for most enterprises. This is particularly true of publicly held companies or of applications that will be storing sensitive employee or customer data (just examples). It's apparently Sun's hope that it can set itself apart from competitors like Amazon and Google by assisting enterprises with the navigation of that complicated labyrinth -- essentially coming up with sets of best practices for enterprises moving into the cloud as well as the cloud providers themselves.
But Dennedy doesn't want Sun to unilaterally come up with these privacy and governance practices. Telling me that she wasn't just "hinting," it's Sun's intentions to pull the industry as well as customers together to come up with a set of best practices that are multilaterally developed. Said Dennedy:
We need to formalize some things and make sure some of the really big players are in the room. ... We don't want it to be just Sun and Sun's customers in the room.
Whether Sun can actually pull another Liberty Alliance off remains to be seen. For starters, unlike when the Liberty Alliance began and there was a bogeyman (Microsoft) that everyone had to keep an eye on, there's no bogeyman to rally against this time. In other words, it's going to be harder to get the same sort of attention. Additionally, armed with little more than its forthcoming announcements, Sun is not exactly looked upon as a credible leader in the cloud computing space -- one that's worth following down the proverbial open industry consortium path. At least not yet.
A lot will depend on the potency of next week's announcements and the traction they get with customers, partners, and to some extent, competitors. If, post-March 18, Sun is suddenly regarded as a contenda [sic], Dennedy's efforts in the market could have the much-needed credibility to pull such a group together.
David Berlind is an editor at large with InformationWeek. David likes to write about emerging tech, new and social media, mobile tech, and things that go wrong. He can be reached at [email protected], and you can also find him on Twitter and other social networks (see the list below). David doesn't own any tech stocks. But, if he did, he'd probably buy some Salesforce.com and Amazon, given his belief in the principles of cloud computing and his hope that the stock market can't get much worse. Also, if you're an out-of-work IT professional or someone involved in the business of compliance, he wants to hear from you.
My Facebook Page (Facebook should have a namespace like Twitter, FriendFeed, and the others)
Del.icio.us (dberlind )
Me on LinkedIn (LinkedIn should have a namespace as well)