Cloud Colonialism: can local player stand up to the US cloud giants?

After Facebook managed to get itself embroiled in an embarrassing row in India, we look at the US cloud firms and ask if they are leading to a wave of tech neo-colonialism.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Are the major #cloud players leading a form of #Tech colonialism? ” user=”Billmew, @comparethecloud”]

The Facebook row comes days after India banned a programme called Facebook Free Basics, which offers free but restricted internet access to people in poor, rural areas. Marc Andreessen one of Facebook’s directors reacted by saying that “anti-colonialism” was to blame for the country’s economic struggles.

“Denying world’s poorest free partial Internet connectivity when today they have none, for ideological reasons, strikes me as morally wrong,” Andreessen, the well-known Silicon Valley investor, wrote on Twitter.

When someone compared the Free Basics service to “internet colonialism”, he replied: “Anti-colonialism has been economically catastrophic for Indian people for decades. Why stop now?”

Despite later apologising and deleting the tweets, he was accused of endorsing colonial rule by thousands of angry Twitter users as his post was circulated widely in India, which has over 22 million Twitter users.

Soon the phrase “East India Company” started to trend on Twitter as users accused Facebook of acting like the former British trading company, which effectively ran most of the Indian subcontinent in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Cloud Colonialism

Are we seeing a rehashing of colonialism for the modern world?

This started me thinking about the way that the “East India Company” had outflanked its French and Dutch rivals in India, by working with and eventually subjugating local tribal leaders. A similar scenario was played out in North America when the French and English allied with local native tribes, using them as proxies in their struggle to gain control of the ‘New World’ – as was shown in Michael Mann’s film adaptation of ‘Last of the Mohicans’ which depicted 1757 during the French and Indian War.

Amazon has made great strides in attracting partners and service providers to its AWS marketplace, with Microsoft’s Azure marketplace and IBM’s Bluemix and cloud marketplace both seeking to do the same.

In an environment that is undoubtedly ‘hybrid’ many local CSPs and MSPs as well as local telcos are evaluating where they stand. While volume economics would indicate that workloads and data will eventually migrate to the largest and cheapest platforms possible – favouring public cloud and the US giants, this is mitigated somewhat by security, provenance, and sovereignty concerns – favouring private or hybrid cloud where the local players can come into their own.

Many local players saw OpenStack, the open cloud platform, as a way of taking on the US giants, but the OpenStack movement has been slower than its giant US rivals to reach a level of enterprise-ready maturity and provide with it a slew of innovative services.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Did Facebook cross the digital colonisation line? ” user=”comparethecloud, @billmew”]

Recently HPE gave up the fight to take on the giants in public cloud and refocused on private and hybrid instead. Along with HPE, players like VMware and Red Hat now all see the market heading in the direction of hybrid and have allied themselves with the Microsoft’s Azure public cloud. Microsoft has even provided them with its Azure Stack to allow them to develop their own private and hybrid clouds in its image – effectively seeking to rally them all to its banner and its public offering.

So what are the options:

  • Should local CSPs, MSPs and telcos bet their future on OpenStack? Will the community be able to make the strides in usability, reliability and innovation that it has been promising for so long?
  • Should they follow HPE, VMware and Red Hat and use the Azure Stack to develop their own private and hybrid clouds that would link seamlessly with Azure? However if everyone is doing this then how can individual firms differentiate themselves?
  • Should they throw their lot in with AWS instead and ally themselves with the market leader with the largest pool of skills, largest client base and largest marketplace? However Amazon’s retail operation has been quick to decimate rivals where and when it saw that there was money to be made (just ask book or DVD sellers) and who is to say that they won’t eat your lunch too?

Once regulatory issues have been ironed out (such as Privacy Shield, which it is hoped will replace Safe Harbour on the data privacy front) the international reach of cloud services will make this a truly global market in a way that no other market has been before. Local support and service will remain important and concerns about security, provenance, and sovereignty will persist, but the market will have global dynamics and reach.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Does choosing a global giant provider put you at risk of finding one day that you’ve been colonised?” user=”billmew”]

So… do you take a stand against the global giants or do you work with them at the risk of finding one day that you’ve been colonised? Make your mind up soon because your future depends on your decision.

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CIF Presents TWF – Andrew Grill


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