Salesforce plans Aust datacentre to calm sovereignty fears

Situation in New Zealand unclear despite some government entities being Salesforce clients

Salesforce.com is considering setting up a datacentre in Australia, to forestall government strictures dictating data or particular classes of data be stored exclusively within the country, says chief marketing officer Kendall Collins.

Local storage will also stem private companies' fears that if they store data in the cloud it might fall outside Australian jurisdiction.

Australia is Salesforce's fourth largest market, Collins says. "This is not a market we're walking away from; period." But he admits "we haven't issued a timeline for [setting up the local datacentre]."

Clearly New Zealand, as a far smaller market, is a different proposition. "I don't know the New Zealand situation," he told Computerworld, at the company's Cloudforce 2011 conference in Sydney this month, "but we have a number of government entities using us, such as NZ Post subsidiary Localist."."

If government strictures or commercial and legal fears make cloud operation difficult in a particular national market, Collins says, some international providers may choose to back out of certain territories. That, he says, will be a grave handicap to small business, which is deriving great benefit from being able to use in the cloud the kind of applications hitherto restricted to large organisations.

Overseas processing is a fact of life with services such as Gmail and devices like the BlackBerry bound inextricably into the operations of small and medium-scale business, Collins notes.

Consider the situation, he says, that a government disagrees with Google over offshore data storage. "Google may say [in that country] you can use Gmail for personal use but no more Gmail for domains. That would be a bomb for every small business in the country; they can't afford an [in-house] Exchange server. It will stifle small business."

Told of NZ Inland Revenue's reservations about offshore storage of tax records and the Privacy Commissioner's recent survey of awareness of risk from offshore storage, he agrees there is nervousness internationally and "there is always the danger of legislation.

"Legislation is a pendulum. It swings too hard and fast in one or the other direction and then it is reversed," he says.

An alternative to it could be a scheme of government certification for vendors who demonstrate they meet stringent standards.

"What companies and citizens both want is assurance of security, availability and privacy. I think governments can vet every vendor at some level and say: 'there are standards we have to apply; you have to meet those standards or you don't operate here'. General legislation may not be the answer."

"We are willing to show publicly on trust.salesforce.com every transaction we have ever done, with the average performance, response time," he says.

"We tell you about our security practices and all the maintenance windows.

"If you are not transparent with people you cannot have trust. Once we have transparency we can settle whether the fears are real, and is there something that needs to be changed."

Bell attended Cloudforce as a guest of Salesforce.com

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