Unlike the virtual realm, the world that appears on a map poses a long list of challenges both to the adoption of cloud computing and the extent to which service providers are willing or able to take their operations global and open up data centers or other operations in new and emerging markets.
In an effort to make sense of that patchwork, the software trade group BSA today is releasing its second annual global cloud-computing scorecard, an evaluation of 24 countries' laws and regulations on a host of issues that bear on a company's decision to open shop in a new market.
"I would say that it is a solid mix. There has been a lot of progress that we're very hopeful about," says Chris Hopfensperger, technology policy counsel at the BSA. "I think the thing that we see though at the end of the day is that there's good laws and bad laws and you end up with really patchy progress."
The 24 countries the BSA evaluated for its cloud scorecard account for around 80 percent of the global information and communications technology market.
For the second year in a row, the BSA ranked Japan as the friendliest environment for cloud providers, citing a high rate of broadband adoption, strong laws against cybercrimes and a solid framework to promote security and protect users' privacy.
Australia follows in the No. 2 spot, also unchanged from last year, while the United States moved up a position, switching places with Germany to rank No. 3 on the cloud scorecard, though the authors of the report attribute that advance more to the ongoing development of standards and infrastructure supporting cloud computing than any substantive policy measures enacted by the government.
Top 5 Countries for Cloud Computing:
The BSA's scorecard acknowledges some encouraging signs of activity on the privacy front in the United States, including the Obama administration's expression of support for new consumer-protection legislation and the development of a so-called privacy bill of rights. At the same time, the report notes "the absence of a broader consensus among lawmakers" on what provisions should be included in an online privacy bill.
Apart from that debate over broad consumer-privacy protections, the BSA, along with a great many cloud-service providers, is actively lobbying for an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), a 1986 statute that set parameters for law-enforcement authorities to wiretap phones and gain access to a computer's data transmissions. But as it is applied today, that law, which long predated the general use of email (let alone the cloud), has created considerable uncertainty about the legal protections afforded to Web-based services, as well as some odd circumstances like the ability for authorities to obtain emails without a warrant from a Webmail provider if the communications are older than six months.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.