The US cloud computing industry could lose between $21.5bn to $35bn in revenues over the next three years as a result of concerns about the National Security Agency’s electronic surveillance programs, according to an independent Washington-based policy think-tank.

The figures, calculated by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, are the first serious attempt to calculate the impact on US cloud computing providers including AmazonGoogle and Microsoft of the recent NSA revelations.

They come amid growing evidence that non-US companies are cancelling contracts and curtailing their use of US-based cloud service providers because of their concerns about the extent to which the NSA and other US law enforcement and national security agencies may be using provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and Patriot Act to obtain electronic data from third parties.

In a report published on Monday, the Foundation said the NSA Prism programme and related revelations, “will probably have an immediate and lasting impact on the competitiveness of the US cloud computing industry if foreign customers decide the risks of storing data with a US company outweigh the benefits.”

The Foundation notes that the US has been the leader in providing cloud computing services, but adds that it “has both the most to gain and the most to lose. Many of the economic benefits of cloud computing, such as job growth and revenue, are dependent on the US being able to export cloud computing services.”

The impact of the concerns about surveillance on US cloud services companies could be particularly acute because it is in a rapid growth phase. Global spending on cloud computing is expected to double between 2012 and 2016 to about $207bn, while the global IT market as a whole will grow by just 3 per cent annually.

“While much of this projected growth was until recently up for grabs by US companies, the disclosures of the NSA’s electronic surveillance may fundamentally alter the market dynamics,” says the report.

To calculate the potential revenue losses associated with the recent NSA disclosures, the Foundation cites a recent membership survey by the Cloud Security Alliance. Among the non-US respondents, 10 per cent said they had cancelled a project with a US-based cloud computing provider while 56 per cent said that they would be less likely to use a US-based cloud computing service.

Among US-based respondents, slightly more than a third, or 36 per cent, indicated that the NSA disclosures had made it more difficult for them to do business outside of the US.

As a result the Foundation estimates that US cloud service providers stand to lose somewhere between 10 and 20 per cent of the foreign market to European or Asian competitors in the next few years, but retain their projected market share for the domestic market.

The report notes that some non-US service providers are already reporting their success. Artmotion, Switzerland’s largest hosting company, reported a 45 per cent increase in revenue in the month after former intelligence agent Edward Snowden revealed details of the NSA’s Prism programme.

Based on its report, the Foundation makes two recommendations. First, it argues that the US government, “needs to proactively set the record straight about what information it does and does not have access to and how this level of access compares to other countries.” Second it says the US government, “should work to establish international transparency requirements so that it is clear what information US-based and non-US-based companies are disclosing to both domestic and foreign governments.”

“Taking these steps will help ensure that national security interests are balanced against economic interests, and that US cloud service providers are able to effectively compete globally,” the Foundation claims.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

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