I'll leave my criticisms of the hypocrisy at Google between their "Do no evil" motto and their actions aside for now. I have to applaud Google for resolving one of three hurdles to the use of their Cloud products. Google is now releasing methods to transfer the data users have put into Google products such as Google Docs, Blogger, and Gmail out of Google's data center. Google calls it their Data Liberation Front and it has it's own webiste at dataliberation.org. Google will provide an easy to use method for exporting data from every product, in bulk, to the user's selected destination. Bravo Google!
Why is this important? The Cloud is predicated on a virtualized infrastructure (utility computing model) with a service based software layer (SOA). The combination of these two models creates a powerful foundation to provide the most flexibility in the most efficient manner. Creating arbitrary obstacles to moving data in and out of data stores, using application components instead of only full applications, and changing where the data and applications reside destroys some of the of Cloud. Cloud has to be bigger than Google, Amazon, Rackspace, IBM, or any other vendor. The emerging Cloud lacks a definition of data ownership. Ownership means the ability to add, change, delete and move at will and have it still be useful. Companies always seem to forget, whether is the old ASP model or SaaS, that they need to make sure their data can be exported AND imported into another tool, otherwise they don't own the data but rather have granted that ownership to the application/platform provider by proxy.
For the Fortune 1000 Cloud will start inside the data center, as it already is for large banks and a select few others with vision. To be relevant, public Cloud offerings need to enable, not disable, integration across the public/private cloud boundaries. Users need to own their data which is not the case when a cloud provider partitions it for them but ties it inextricably to their platform. Without ownership standards the Cloud represents nothing more than a new larger external silo, but still a silo.
What Google is doing will raise the bar for all providers which should go a long way to making Cloud more palatable from a risk point of view. The next steps should be enabling a federated data model so I can store highly sensitive data at home while using Google for the remainder of the data but all within a single data model. In addition Google can go further with enabling its applications as services for integration into other tools. Of course I expect Google will need remuneration and needs to think through how enterprise licensing will work because everyone knows you get what you pay for. As long as a service is free it also means at the mercy of the provider.
Oh, the other two obstacles Google needs to figure out? First, encryption of data at rest and in transit which I know is already on the drawing board and partly implemented in tools such as Google Docs. Second, interoperability standards to enabling the shifting of data and applications throughout the cloud. Where Google goes the public Clouds will follow.