Every Cloud Has a Lining – Maybe a Legal One

Stimulated by the recently launched Rimon Cloud Computing initiative, Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum was interviewed by CFO U.S. reporter David McCann, and in the August 10, 2010, Today in Finance section, you can read the entire interview, "The Cloud’s Legal Lining".

You can also read and download a current copy of all of the white papers in our ongoing series, "Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing." Be sure you subscribe via email or get the Legal Bytes RSS Feed so you are always in touch with the latest and most updated version, as new white papers on additional topics are released. Of course, if you have questions, you can always contact Joseph I. ("Joe") Rosenbaum directly, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

E-Discovery in the Cloud: Next Installment in Transcending the Cloud

As part of our Cloud Computing initiative, we are proud to present the next installment and chapter in our on-going series, “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing.” This White Paper and Chapter, entitled E-Discovery in the Cloud, takes a close look at some of the challenges that lie ahead in the world of discovery, when information and applications are processed, stored, accessed and used in a cloud-computing environment.

We would like to thank Jennifer Yule DePriest and Claire Covington for their hard work in putting this together, and you should feel free to contact them directly if any questions arise or if you need help or more information. As we have in the past, we have also updated the entire work so that when you access the PDF of our “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing” compendium, you will receive all of the sections, now updated with this “E-Discovery in the Cloud” chapter, and you will have our updated and growing body of legal and regulatory insight into Cloud Computing.

Make sure you subscribe via email or get the Legal Bytes RSS Feed so you are always in touch with our latest information. Of course, if you ever have questions, you can always contact me Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, Adam Snukal, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

Cloud Computing: ‘Transcending the Cloud’ Adds Government Contracting Case Study

Last week, Legal Bytes announced Rimon’s new global initiative, Cloud Computing. With that announcement, the Task Force released the first three in a series of white papers entitled, “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing.” We also promised to release “case studies” shortly after the white papers, to demonstrate how the insights in each paper have practical implications through case study examples.

Here is the first: A case study on government contracting, now attached to the white paper entitled, “The Risks and Rewards of a U.S. Federal Government Contractor Employing a Cloud Service Provider to Perform a Federal Government Contract,” authored by Lorraine Campos, Stephanie Giese and Joelle Laszlo. Contact them if you need to know more about this important area of cloud computing.

We will update each individual paper, as well as the compendium, as each paper, case study and update is released, so make sure you subscribe via email or get the Legal Bytes RSS Feed so you are always in touch with the latest information. Of course, if you ever have questions, you can always contact me Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, Adam Snukal, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

‘Transcending the Cloud’ – Rimon Announces White Paper Series & Legal Initiative on Cloud Computing

This post was written by Joseph I. Rosenbaum, Adam Snukal and Douglas J. Wood.

For those of you who have wondered why Legal Bytes has been so quiet recently, it’s because I, and my colleague Adam Snukal, have been hard at work coordinating and putting together a new initiative – Cloud Computing.

Today, we are proud to announce the launch of a new Rimon initiative focusing on Cloud Computing and showcased with our new series of white papers entitled, “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing.”  The term “cloud computing” is showing up with greater frequency, but there is still much confusion and unawareness of what it means, and, more significantly for our purposes, how it is affecting and will increasingly affect you.  In the decade ahead, cloud computing likely will affect everyone, from major multinational corporations to consumers; from governments to the local grocery store.

But cloud computing, like social media, is ultimately not about technological innovation or novel or transformative invention – it is about changing the fundamental nature of our relationships and how all of us access and use information and application programs: at work, in school, at play, as we shop and as we grow.  Cloud computing is transformative because it will enable anyone, anywhere and at any time, to access, use and create information and content – whether working on a spreadsheet, collaborating on a graphic design, creating an online gaming program, searching for a new restaurant, streaming music, or watching a motion picture – independent of a robust processing device.  No longer tied to desktops, laptops or proprietary pieces of equipment – just plug into the wall, as you would for electricity, and it’s there.  All you need is the ability to enter commands (input) and to display and receive (output) the results.  No plugs, no problem.  Just as sending and receiving transmissions wirelessly occur today, so too will the devices that access the cloud.

In this brave new world, there will be new providers, new economic models, new access plans, and broadened capabilities, at differential pricing.  On demand, subscription, tiered pricing (anyone remember the timesharing companies of the late ‘60s and ‘70s?) will likely return to fashion in a world of cloud computing.

As mentioned above, the Cloud Computing Task Force at Rimon has created a series of white papers – collectively entitled “Transcending the Cloud: A Legal Guide to the Risks and Rewards of Cloud Computing” – to elucidate the opportunities and dangers, the risks and rewards of cloud computing.  Our collection of white papers will cover cloud computing issues you may have heard little about, but that are and will be no less significant.  Will we still need backup on our devices?  What about cloud insurance?  New economic and business models mean – yes, you knew this was coming – new taxes.  What about security and privacy and data protection in the cloud?  We will worry about standards and interoperability.  No one provider can possibly cover the world or a world of data and applications – mobile phone carriers interexchange based on regulations over decades; Internet protocols evolved to ensure that email and other providers would enable individuals to communicate regardless of proprietary networks or email programming.  Will clouds evolve the same way?  Will there be barriers to entry as a cloud provider?  Infrastructure is expensive; global capability more so.  Providers will vie for cloud apps.

Our approach is also unique.  Today, we are launching our initiative.  An introduction and three exciting new introductory white papers all dealing with the cloud: government contracting, tax and service levels, and other contractual performance protections.  We will release case studies in the weeks ahead, providing practical examples based on the white papers and insights into how law and regulation is likely to affect each of these areas.  Where answers are available, we’ll tell you.  Where they are not, we’ll be insightful.  We have assembled a multi-jurisdictional, cross-disciplinary team, a task force of lawyers and professionals dealing with the issues arising in Cloud Computing.  In the weeks and months ahead we’ll keep releasing white papers – antitrust and competition law, e discovery, litigation, insurance, contract law and regulatory compliance.  We will not only deal with U.S. law, but will also provide you with contributions from our lawyers around the world.  Each release will not only provide an individual chapter that is the subject of the release (today we have Government Contracting, Tax and SLA/Performance Protection), but also an updated comprehensive copy of the growing compendium.  Transcending the Cloud will dynamically provide insights as the industry and challenges grow.  Keep a copy handy.  Make sure you check back for updates regularly.  Join us in the conversation.

I want to thank my colleague Adam Snukal for his steady hand and keen insight in helping me to put this Cloud Computing initiative together.  And Kevin Vaarsi, our marketing guru, who coordinated much of the logistics and the planning for our initiative.  Most important, as you will see today and in the months ahead, a team of Rimon lawyers who have invested countless hours and done significant research to contribute these white papers and bring you their insights – none of this would be possible without them, and each paper will have names, contact information and biographical information about these terrific professionals.  As our body of work grows, we will make each white paper available as a separate PDF, but we will also update our “Transcending the Cloud” compendium for those of you wanting a constantly updated and growing body of legal and regulatory insight into Cloud Computing in one place.  Make sure you subscribe via email or get the Legal Bytes RSS Feed so you are always in touch with our latest information.  Of course, if you ever have questions, you can always contact me Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, Adam Snukal, or any Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

Are There Clouds in Your Future?

Check out MediaPost’s SearchBlog yesterday (A Dream Cloud Computes The Future), which recounts the conversation Joe Rosenbaum had with reporter and blogger Laurie Sullivan about the future of cloud computing. Need to know more about the legal implications and issues? Call Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

When the Fog Lifts, Don’t Be Surprised if You Still See Clouds

“If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility . . . The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry.”

                                      John McCarthy, MIT Centennial, 1961

“Cloud computing” is a term used to describe the use of computer resources not solely as a communications protocol (e.g., the Internet), nor solely as a content or transaction host (World Wide Web), but as an application development and information processing service. To help explain further, to send an email, much like using the telephone, it makes no difference who your provider or host is or which carrier you use. There is a protocol that allows interoperability across networks and processors, and as long as the sender and recipient have an email address and access to an Internet connection, the email gets through. On the web, with access to the Internet and a browser (technology that displays content and functionality hosted at a particular Internet address), you can interact with the website – you can see the material displayed and you can "select" (click) to enable certain features.

Today, as a general rule, if you wanted to create, edit, spell check, save, send or share most content or information with someone, unless you plan on typing and formatting a very long email, you still need word processing, spreadsheet or presentation software programs to create and upload (communicate or store for display), or to see and use content that you might download. In a cloud-computing environment, all of these functions are resident in the "cloud." Imagine that you no longer needed a desktop or laptop computer processor, and all you had were input and display devices (e.g., keyboard, mouse, monitor), which you could either carry or borrow wherever you went. Plug into a universal "outlet," enter your unique pass codes and authentication information, and you have everything you need – where and when you need it. Like telephone, electric or gas service, computing becomes a commodity accessible virtually anywhere and anytime, generally priced by usage, the applications, and the amount and type of storage for which you want and need access.

Cloud-computer services can be sold and paid for using plans not dissimilar to phone service – per call, per minute, unlimited, features, functions – and they disaggregate the user, whether individual or business enterprise, from the procurement, maintenance and operations of the underlying processors and software programs. Clouds can be public – made available to anyone on demand (think Wi-Fi registration based hot spots) or private (large companies can operate or arrange to have someone operate a closed-cloud environment). I summarize the basic characteristics of cloud computing as follows:

  • Flexibility – the user can easily modify use, resources, demand, access and virtually every other resource, without the need to purchase or dispose of any equipment or software, other than input and output devices. Increases or decreases in processing, development, storage or other requirements can be managed easily in real time and on an infinitely scalable basis.
  • Cost – commodity or utility pricing lowers user costs. Capital expenditures can be eliminated, license fees reduced and access fees managed more efficiently.
  • Resources – shared resources enable lower per-user, per-unit pricing, and optimization of peak and non-peak loads across user communities. Resource upgrades and enhancements can be amortized across a broad user base, seamlessly and transparently to the user community. Inter-exchange agreements between cloud providers will enable continuity and recovery, load management, and resource backup capability at optimal prices.
  • Independence – time, space and resource constraints become largely irrelevant to the extent Internet or web access is available.
  • Interoperability – absent unique or customized requirements that can be managed separately by the user, standardized applications, development tools and protocols are simpler to maintain and operate, debug, update and support. 

While security and privacy is always a concern – more so where data, in addition to processing capability and storage, becomes more concentrated and accessible rather than distributed – more users and businesses will have the potential benefit of stronger security measures than are currently affordable or in use, to the extent cloud providers can develop and implement strong security standards and protocols within their service offerings. 

So who are the actual or prospective players? Well lots of prognosticators and labelers are out there, but here is my list in basic categories:

  • Providers are those who procure, create, host and manage cloud resources and then sell access, services, features and functions in a cloud environment – wholesale or retail
  • Users are those who need to use and take advantage of cloud services, features and functions, whether individually or as part of a business
  • Intermediators are those who create intermediation and aggregation opportunities between and among providers. On the one hand, intermediators can bridge gaps between providers and create interface and sharing environments between or among providers. On the other hand, intermediators may begin finding niches in customizing or aggregating services, features or functions for particular industries or in particular regions.
  • Developers and supporters are those who develop utilities, applications, tools, features and functions to enhance the cloud experience, make additional services and applications available, and who maintain and support the efficient functioning of the cloud environment.

There may be others – my list is not intended to be comprehensive or even definitive. I don’t have a crystal ball, so time and experience will determine what we cannot now predict. Four computers, interconnected to respond to the perceived vulnerability of centralized computing, were the origins of the Internet. Distributed computing represented commercial attempts to amortize costs, decentralize institutionalized information, and enable greater redundancy and recovery capability. Networking and web-based computing gave us the ability to communicate, share and store information across multiple processors and devices through share protocols. While it’s still too foggy to tell what the future will bring, cloud computing represents the next big innovative thing in making the power of the computer and the Internet easier to use, more available, more interoperable and more cost-effective.

When the fog starts to lift, we may see clouds on the horizon. Whether they are storm clouds or fluffy wondrous sights of joy, I leave to your imagination. Stay tuned. But no matter what your visions of the future may be, if you see a cloud and you aren’t sure what the legal implications might be, please feel free to contact me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.

That’s Cloud Computing, Not Smog, Spreading From L.A.

Although reports of dissipating smog may be premature, if postings from Google are to be believed, Los Angeles is officially in the cloud. Google’s online email and collaboration cloud, that is! City employees will now use cloud computing for email and working on collaborative projects together. Google hails cloud computing for the city of Los Angeles as something that “will improve the security and reliability of city email, transitioning from servers in the City Hall basement to hosted, secure data centers.”

Los Angeles isn’t the only place to fall in love with clouds. VISI, the largest provider of data-center and managed-hosting services last month (December 2009), announced a public beta of ReliaCloud – a cloud computing service available to users anywhere. Set up an account online, set up computer servers in one of the VISI data centers, and employee-users can access the service from anywhere – anywhere there’s an Internet browser and connection. Cost? Reportedly, the pricing starts at 5 cents an hour! Welcome to fungible, commodity computing. According to VISI, its cloud service was designed to be reliable, affordable and scalable. The beta is targeted at small- to medium-sized commercial users, and businesses can apply at www.reliacloud.com. And VISI anticipates storage and other services to become available over time as part of a suite of offerings. Just one example among many of companies offering and embracing cloud computing.

The United States isn’t the only country where cloud computing environments are springing up. Back in September, the city of Dongying in China announced a strategic initiative with IBM, where the city is hoping to transform its industrial, petroleum-based environment into a service-driven economy. The cloud will be designed to allow start-up companies to do testing and software development through the web, but will also include electronic government services (e.g., e-services). IBM has also set up cloud computing in the Chinese city of Wuxi, and was recently picked to build another cloud computing platform – Quang Trung Software City – in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon, the former capital of South Vietnam). For you trivia buffs, Quang Trung was an Emperor of Vietnam centuries ago. IBM is another emerging player, along with Microsoft’s Azure, Amazon.com’s EC2, and Google’s AppEngine, to name only a few of the more prominent participants in the growing move to cloud computing environments.

So, if your head is in the clouds or if all of this seems foggy to you, you should consider learning more – especially about the legal implications and issues. And you probably should start doing so BEFORE your IT, Finance, HR, Security, Audit, or Operations people (or maybe even the government regulators), come knocking on the door! Want or need help? Contact me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum, or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work. We’ll help get you out of the mist and back on Cloud Nine!

Wandering Lonely as a Cloud? Not One Cloud Computing Inventor in Texas!

In 1804, William Wordsworth published what is certainly among the most well known and oft-read poems in the English language – it begins, “I wandered lonely as a cloud that floats on high o’er vales and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host, of golden daffodils.”  Now even back in 1804, Wordsworth, no XML programming guru, was already talking about clouds, crowds and hosts . . . 

So we read recently that NetMass, a Texas company, reached a settlement and had a judgment issued in a federal patent case involving a lawsuit by an inventor, Mitchell Prust, alleging that NetMass infringed some cloud computing and cloud storage patents. Mr. Prust had apparently invented a mechanism to allow web browsers to access application programming – a fundamental aspect of cloud computing. The settlement and judgment entered by the Federal Court in Texas (Mitchell Prust v. Softlayer Technologies, Inc., et al., No. 2:09-cv-236) notes that NetMass had infringed three of Mr. Prust’s patents and enjoins NetMass from continuing to do so in the future. From current published reports, Mr. Prust also has a lawsuit pending in Federal Court in California against Apple.

This may be just the beginning of a wave of intellectual property lawsuits as cloud computing begins to evolve and become part of a commercial operational toolkit around the globe – not much different from those surrounding ATMs, online banking, networking and other once-emergent technology platforms. Stay tuned. You will be hearing more from us about clouds in the year ahead.

In the meantime, if your head is in the clouds (or perhaps just a fog), and you need help, feel free to contact me, Joseph I. (“Joe”) Rosenbaum or the Rimon attorney with whom you regularly work.