Traversing the storm
"Security and privacy are the big issues because you don't know where your data is held," Chapman said, noting the concerns aren't limited to the likes of China and India. Data would be open for snooping under the United States Patriot Act, he said, which would rule out an American cloud.
Panellists spoke of similar political issues under the Asia Pacific hub cloud model where data from foreign countries would be held in Australian data centres. "Do we hand over data from our clouds to a new government requesting information on a company in their country?" Stone said.
Australian Computer Society vice president Mark Llyod said the government uptake of the cloud is contingent on the success of the technology in the private sector.
"Cloud computing raises many geo-political issues that need answers before governments, which hold information under public trust, will venture forth," Llyod said.
"What if a government froze foreign assets, including cloud infrastructure, or denied access over some international dispute? If knowledge is power, how can a nation guarantee that data stored in the cloud is not used by foreign powers to gain commercial or political advantage? How can a nation protect the public interest if its laws are subjugated to international rules of engagement?"
He said the government would be wise to delay deployment of the technolgy because it may not have the necessary acumen to invest in cloud services.
"If the media is used as a guide, the governments of Australia are still making spectacular mistakes in procurement and project delivery, so only the brave or stupid in government will venture down this path in the near future."
Pressing questions remain about data ownership in the cloud, Stone said, including where the information resides and what elements are allowed to leave the organisation or migrate offshore.
"You need to start addressing the issues of data sovereignty, protection and so forth. Government and industry needs to engage in dialogue because there are sub-problems because data can be very sensitive or quite benign."
Stone said IT will naturally evolve into the cloud. However, it will run into problems without adequate dialogue.
Government agencies will need guaranteed Service Level Agreements (SLAs) before sending public data into the cloud. Brisbane City Council ICT partnerships manager Idramore Cudamore said the decentralised nature of cloud computing makes enforcing SLAs difficult.
Stone said cloud computing uses different SLAs because the data centres have a unique stack architecture.
"Its not the same stack. The servers don't have fans in them, the blade setup is totally different [as is] the bus configuration, hypervisor and management. The type of approach is different from traditional hosting," Stone said.
He said it is too early to dictate what software licensing models will dominate in the cloud, but suggested a per-user or pay-per-click will be more suitable than the per-device structure.
However, Dr Iannella said the customer victory which banished man of the 'ludicrous' licence models created almost a decade ago during the Digital Rights Management shift will resonate in the cloud computing models. He said licence models will be reinvented to suit the flexibility of the cloud.