What is the significance of Amazon supplying cloud services to CIA?

Posted on June 20, 2013  /  0 Comments

Someone forwarded an email that said that Jeff Bezos should now add Spymaster to his titles because Amazon had won a contract to supply cloud services to the CIA. My immediate response was “I fail to see what the problem is. Firms have been selling computers to the CIA and NSA for years without their CEOs being called spymasters. Why the excitement about the sale of a service? What is the conceptual difference between Cray and IBM selling computers and Amazon selling cloud services?”

Then I read more about it. To find that actually Amazon had beaten IBM on the bid. And that the issue worthy of discussion was not the supply of a service to a legitimate government agency, but a conceptual shift in the supply of cloud services, away from the position Amazon had previously held about the superiority of the public cloud and its acceptance of the government vision of private clouds disconnected from the public cloud. Another step, it seems, from the single Internet to multiple internets.

For years, cloud computing has been defined by sharp contrast in philosophy. New-age companies like Amazon and Google said computing power should be offered over the internet, much like electricity is offered over the grid. This, they said, was cloud computing. But old-school companies like IBM and HP — companies threatened by this new way of doing things — urged businesses to duplicate cloud computing services like Amazon EC2 and Google Compute Engine inside private data centers, arguing that this provided greater security and privacy. You could still have cloud computing, the old guard said, without the public internet.

Wired’s take.

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