The Snowden Effect


A Decentralized Future for Data Centers?

Phil Gilchrist, TE Connectivity (TE) VP and CTO, discusses the cloud data storage security challenges facing countries around the world.

A Very Real Political Dynamic

Whatever one thinks about the rights and wrongs of Edward Snowden’s release of US intelligence gathering techniques, there’s no denying that he’s had an impact on where our data is stored and how it will be accessed in the future. After a sense of shock that so much of what we write, store, and receive is so vulnerable to inspection, governments now find themselves thinking in very non-flat world terms and are thinking about security in new ways. Centralized information is very powerful indeed. Even more powerful are the economic dynamics behind the US mega data centers, belonging to brand name cloud companies, located close to cheap sources of energy and connected to the world via very fat fiber pipes. With over 250,000 servers at a single location, and expected growth to one million servers, the physical presence of these structures are the eighth wonder of the Internet world. But what happens when the countries lose faith in the security of that data and don’t want their data and their citizens’ data off shore? Will the Cloud need “country codes”? It’s undeniable that this is a very real political dynamic that will reshape the way we think about the Cloud.


Personalized security solutions?


New business opportunities?


Moving vast volumes of data quickly.


A Network of Safety Deposit Boxes

People will demand the equivalent of a safe deposit box for their data. There are multiple fortunes to be made for personalized security solutions that are only accessible by the owner and don’t rely on the Cloud application owner to keep their promise not to peek, or trawl, or data mine. Personal servers for which you have complete control are the ultimate expression of this. There may be less of one all pervading, conceptual, omniscient cloud and more of a network of connected personal safe deposit boxes of data that you own and exercise access control. The ultimate decentralized response to the Snowden Effect. 

Store Locally

In a Data Center Near You

Governments will demand that their data and that of their citizens are kept locally in the neighborhood. One could argue about the security effectiveness of this given that once something is online, the data can come from and go anywhere. Hackers attack data centers from half way around the world with little real chance of capture even if detected. Dark web tools like The Onion Routing (TOR) project are commonplace and I’m sure there are less common tools available if one has the need for them. Regardless, it’s clear that governments are encouraging data centers to be physically located where their citizens are. This is new and a potentially powerful new dynamic, providing opportunities for national service providers and equipment suppliers. 

Connect Quickly

Interconnects: The Hidden Enabler

Whether it’s the ultimate decentralized response, or a swift return to nationally located datacenters, it’s emerging that the data “interconnect” world, i.e. the links that connect servers, switches, and data storage equipment, are the hidden enabler in the whole story. These are critical components and are undergoing a significant increase in technological capability. Quietly they move vast volumes of data between equipment. There are copper and optical interconnects of all shapes and performances, standardized and unstandardized. The ideal interconnect is cheap, takes up as little space as possible, is reliable, has high bandwidth and can communicate over distances of a few centimeters to hundreds of meters.

Is the future of the Cloud more centralized or decentralized? What other geo-political or security influences do you think will impact the shape of the Cloud?
Phil Gilchrist,
Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Decentralization of the Cloud could be a profound impact of the Snowden Effect. As time moves on, solutions could migrate further out from already decentralized data centers to wherever things need to be connected: be that in the data and power hungry IoT-connected home of the future funneling decentralized, but more secure data between infotainment media devices; or in vehicles laden with monitoring and entertainment systems.