A Great First Step: The Gartner Cloud Computing Bill of Rights and Responsibilities

Posted by Ted MacLean
General Manager, Open Solutions Group

Last week, I took part in a Gartner Symposium panel discussion about rights and responsibilities of cloud computing customers, a panel that mirrored the analyst firm’s recently published report developed with their Gartner Global IT Council. It was a great discussion about IT governance and the nuances that cloud computing brings into the client relationship. There were representatives from Accenture, Salesforce.com and handful of enterprise companies, so it was a virtual guarantee that opinions would vary.

But one thing stood out through all the discussion:  despite all the customer case studies, technical specifications and beta testing that vendors provide, there’s still a high level of uncertainty among customers. Specifically, companies want to ensure that any relationship with a cloud computing vendor is designed, first and foremost, to meet the needs of their business. They also want to make sure that any applications or data deployed on a public cloud are an extension of their IT network, rather than an “island” in the cloud.  As I heard I heard one CIO on the panel say, “The issue is to balance the compelling financial case with the risk of execution and what it means for your business.”

For all the benefits of cloud computing, business and IT executives can’t let go of the fact that they’re giving up a certain amount of control of some of their business resources. To help address these concerns, Gartner convened representatives from more than 300 enterprise companies. Their goal was to develop a bill of rights and responsibilities for cloud services that could help “standardize” what customers should and shouldn’t expect from their cloud computing vendors. The expectation is that this list will expand as cloud computing continues to develop and mature.

Microsoft was one of a handful of vendors that provided feedback in a resulting “Vendor Response to Bill of Rights” report and we applaud efforts like Gartner’s to help customers address their concerns and fully embrace the potential of cloud computing.  Finding the right balance in addressing customer as well as vendor concerns will be critical to the development of cloud computing.  And we look forward to continuing this dialogue with our customers.  Microsoft has also worked with the Business Software Alliance to develop the BSA Cloud Computing Guiding Principles which list factors and policies that are key to promote cloud computing.

As Gartner observes about Cloud computing, “The model is outpacing the preparedness of businesses, government and the legal system. New laws will need to be laid down, and the modernization of old laws will need to be completed.” We agree the laws must evolve to preserve cloud computing’s potential to improve our lives and promote commerce. Microsoft’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, has outlined a framework of policies that need to be addressed for a “Cloud Computing Advancement Act.” Microsoft also feels strongly that customers should have control of their data, regardless of where it resides. 

We have committed to data portability as one of the essential interoperability elements of a cloud platform.  Gartner notes, “This allows a customer to react to ownership issues by deciding whether to stay with a given provider.”  And service level agreements should clearly outline liabilities, limitations or caps on liability, any remediation and the expected business outcome.  Helping customers address these issues will provide the assurance they need to move to the cloud.

It’s going to take the industry working together to take advantages of the opportunities and responsibilities open in the cloud, and more importantly, it’s important that the customers’ voice is heard in this discussion.  We urge you to review the key findings of this report and tell us what you think.

*Source: Gartner: Vendor Response: How Providers Address the Cloud Rights and Responsibilities, Daryl Plummer, September 29, 2010

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