Cisco: The Internet Needs More Control
Cisco Systems is making an unusual case for itself: The Internet must be subject to a higher amount of control, and big companies will work with governments to make that possible.
The message came in an announcement on Monday, rich in corporate partners and allies, that was intended to show Cisco's progress in creating its so-called Intercloud, a proposed network of cloud computing systems with high performance, security and control.
In addition to improving security, the Intercloud is meant to help companies comply with the regulations of countries regarding the information that moves within their borders. For example, in Germany, where personal data privacy is a priority, that sort of technology can help personal information stay out of public hands.
Also, important infrastructure like traffic control systems are increasingly run over the Internet. It's important that those systems have better security and control.
'Our critical infrastructure will all be connected,' said Robert Lloyd, Cisco's president of development and sales. 'I don't think we want it to run on a public consumer cloud.'
But there is an obvious downside: This so-called data sovereignty means that digital information stored inside a country is subject to the laws of that country. In nations with less democratic views, that can mean censorship.
'I always thought data sovereignty was important,' Mr. Lloyd said. 'Events of the last six to 12 months have accelerated the requirements for data sovereignty and privacy.'
Among the more than 30 companies that Cisco said had added their support to the Intercloud were Deutsche Telekom, British Telecommunications and Equinix. A number of other companies, Cisco said, are building cloud systems and applications that are compliant with the Intercloud.
Deutsche Telekom is deploying Intercloud nodes into its data centers in Germany to meet that country's strict data protection standards. BT, with data centers in 20 countries on five continents, will deploy Cisco infrastructure that, a release announcing the partnership said, allows its customers 'to meet national compliance and assurance requirements and to communicate and contract under the jurisdiction of the local law.'
Some of those laws may include which parts of the Internet people may or may not see. China already censors the web, and earlier this year Twitter was temporarily banned in Turkey. Mr. Lloyd did not say that Cisco supported such control, but noted that its network allowed better control of 'the ways customers can dial up and down' flows of information. He added, 'I know there is a concern' about how this may be used.
Cisco is not the only big technology company promoting itself as an answer to the need for data protection. On Sunday evening in San Francisco, Oracle's founder and executive chairman, Lawrence J. Ellison, introduced several new cloud computing products that he said would provide greater security.
Mr. Ellison also introduced a new product, called memory protection, which he said was a semiconductor-based monitoring system to prevent a malicious software application from gaining access to the memory of another application, usually an early step in a computer attack.
The innovation, he said, would eliminate many attacks.
Cisco has long counted on government sales, and sales to telecommunications companies often closely tied to governments, and could use the outlet to protect its high-margin equipment sales. Mr. Lloyd also noted that so far 30 cloud providers were on track to use Cisco's top Nexus 9000 switch in their systems.
Cisco also made a nod to open source computing, in particular the OpenStack cloud software that is at the heart of its Intercloud. OpenStack has also been embraced by other big companies, including Hewlett-Packard, IBM and AT&T.