China and the Cloud: Revising Culture to Reap New Business
“Access your information from anywhere.” This is one of the primary tenets of marketing for cloud computing — entice consumers with the freedom to work, or play, wherever they roam. Selling such expansiveness should hit a snag in a nation that underscores authoritarian control, like — as if you couldn’t guess — China.
New-fangled ideas about liberating people, inherent to the cloud’s nature, wouldn’t appear likely to score a home run in the People’s Republic. Yet in fact, cloud computing has ignited China’s never-ending need to be number-one. Last time, it was the Olympic Games; this round sees them aiming to make their IT community the envy of the world. Pity that China’s IT budget pales in comparison to that of America. We outspend the aspiring superpower by a ratio of roughly 6 billion to 1. Yet China compensates for what it lacks in financing with sheer resourcefulness.
Plans are afoot to construct an entire city powered by cloud computing, to be unimpressively christened “Cloud Valley.” IBM has partnered with Chinese firm Range Technology to mount the project by the year 2016. China apparently sees the cloud’s worth in reducing energy costs and maximizing efficiency. Yet this seems hypocritical when one considers how large the city will sprawl — more than 6 million square feet, rivaling the Pentagon’s sweep.
How to uphold China’s primary ethos: build big yet spend little? Realizing that penny-pinching won’t fit the bill for excellence, the nation has decided to shell out the necessary dough, in truth, because cloud computing cushions several of China’s core values.
Stateside cloud centers stand on transparency. They involve public servers that are independently operated. Yet China values intellectual sequestration above all. Its endeavors into the cloud will remain decidedly insular, cloaked in the country’s now-trademark protectionist tendencies: it will employ a private network, and the government will likely monitor the cloud’s data centers.
But you can’t bottle sunshine, and battening down the hatchets around the cloud is fairly impossible too — even for China. The cloud is actually challenging the country to rethink its moral boundaries, in the spirit of business.
China will partly dismantle its infamous Internet censorship scheme, nicknamed “The Great Firewall,” for certain companies in its cloud that it deems worthy.
China has also undernourished its technological community, yet the cloud might provide the shot in the arm it needs. To jump-start “Cloud Valley,” Beijing company heads will outsource their services to IT organizations throughout Southeast China.
China will heavily rely on talent educated and experienced abroad to staff its cloud city. This might be the most noteworthy move China is making out of its comfort zone, by the hand of the cloud. Cloud computing is an American revolution; China’s primary partner in this, IBM, is Yankee all the way. Bringing in cloud-ready professionals groomed in American universities and companies is a white-flag-raising gesture. It essentially admits that the West is superior in education and technology, no matter how China begrudges that fact.
If you can’t beat ’em, they say, join ’em. Such a phrase can’t hold entirely true for China, however. Though the nation might skip hand in hand with American resources to build its own cloud, we anticipate that the People’s Republic will eventually attempt to dominate the global IT community.
China will have to surmount cultural arrogance and learn from the cloud’s inclusiveness in order to do so. Stay tuned.
By Jeff Norman