Marc Benioff and Neelie Kroes talk cloud computing and governance

During the Dreamforce event, CEO Marc Benioff sat down with some of the leaders in the industry to talk about cloud computing and governance in the digital age. The panel was made up the former US federal government chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, the vice president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, and Burberry chief executive officer, Angela Ahrendts.


During the Dreamforce event, CEO Marc Benioff sat down with some of the leaders in the industry to talk about cloud computing and governance in the digital age. The panel was made up the former US federal government chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, the vice president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, and Burberry chief executive officer, Angela Ahrendts.

The four leaders discussed various issues during the course of the wide ranging conversation, including best practice for Cloud computing by governments and the importance of human rights.

Benioff: So we’ve heard about Euro Clouds. Should countries have their own Cloud, should vendors have to have data centres in residency, in country? You’ve been studying this cloud computing phenomenon, I think, more than any other regulator that I’ve met anywhere in the world. Can you give us your thinking? How do you see this coming about?

Neelie Kroes: I was Commissioner of Competition Policy, and I’m so grateful with that experience for I am a strong believer in competition. It keeps people awake, it keeps states awake.

Having said that, when I finished my first term in office... I was asked to join a second term. People were addressing me in the streets, wherever I was and saying, "It may be great for you for your second term, but poor you with this portfolio after the competition post."

I discussed this with my people and I said, “Let’s just keep quiet and let’s first prove that that we can implement what we have in mind, for this is the most fascinating digital agenda portfolio you can imagine — time wise and also content wise.”

So, we delivered our digital agenda and I took a risk. My people warned me when I said “every European digital in 2013”. They said, "Are you not interested in continuing your term? It will be a disaster". I said, "We have to".

The main issue [in] cloud computing is if you are saying "every European digital", you can’t afford to leave people out of this whole development. It is a new way of living. Having said that, you need to get trust and security. People are willing to move, but only where there is trust and security. And that is at stake when we are talking about Cloud computing in very important ways.

And I completely agree with Vivek that there is tremendous cost reduction. Even ministers of finance and now interested in my remarks. Can you imagine?

But... we just can’t discuss cloud computing, for there is one issue that I want give in absolutely clear language. It is not me, commission, it is not the council ministers that is predicting... the regulation. It is you.

We have had hundreds and hundreds of reactions on our first discussion of the cloud computing strategy. We will... hopefully publish our strategy next year and just secrets for you, but keep this for us. I have asked Vivek to be my advisor, and he said "yes".

In the democracy, it takes more time. I don’t think there is a better system than a democracy involving people, but it takes time and there are also hurdles. Imagine Europe: 27 member states with different cultures, different backgrounds, very fascinating and when they gather together there is a long history of different systems, communist countries from not that long ago, very fascinating people, very involved in European thought.

We are just taking the line that we should indeed implement [this]. And not only cost wise, it is also a matter for small and medium-sized enterprises... this is a big opportunity.

Is it a challenge? Yes. Do we need to implement it? Absolutely. The strategy will be there. It will not be an ideal situation, globally, but I am absolutely certain that we can manage within Europe anyhow. And we shouldn’t do it only within Europe, it should combined with as well the US as well as Asia and others. This is, by definition, a global issue.

Benioff: I was very touched by your focus on how human rights connects with cloud computing, and the importance of privacy and trust and security. In the United States, we don’t completely understand the very deep respect and focus that you have on human rights. That’s where the trust aspects come from, that there’s nothing more important than that human connection with the network. Can you help us understand... from the perspective of individuals who aren’t really directly in Europe today?

Kroes: For us, human rights and freedom of making your own decisions and being certain that security and trust is guaranteed is the main [thing]. Even if it takes more time, and there are very interesting debates in the European Parliament by the way. Of course, different political parties have different political points of view. But for us, the human rights [issue] is the base of our democracy.

Benioff: It seems that so much of your policy comes from that key point and that’s why it is critical to understand. We had a very interesting meeting at the World Economic Forum with many vendors and government officials and when we were talking about that and how we build more trust. Because I think from our perspective, without trust, there is no cloud computing. There’s nothing more important to Salesforce than trust and how that is translated down to the individual. That is very important. And we also talked about the transportability of data and logic and that data residency itself is not the seminal issue, but the seminal issue is portability and transportability.

Kroes: It is also a challenge. And I am aware that it is a bit risky to touch upon that one, it’s not only trust that nothing will happen when you put your data, and that could be personal, it could be business-wise, in the cloud. We should also be aware of who is delivering the technical instruments and [whether] that is also taken into account.

Benioff: And I think that’s the whole problem. When we talk about government policies on data residency on privacy, on trust, on security, on transportability, how do we fundamentally protect the rights of corporations and companies as they move to Cloud computing? And, that’s where you have, I think, changed the game for the vendors and had us reorient around that key focus. When I come back to my own employees, I say, what are we doing about human rights, what are we doing on trust, what are we doing on transportability, logic and data? And I think that those three values are going to guide us going forward.

Kroes: You need to add security.

Benioff: And security. I don’t think you can have trust without security. So when I say ‘trust’, I mean security, I mean privacy. I think it’s a good actual example of kind of the translation between a vendor, when I think trust, it’s a synthetic word to me. You can’t have trust without the best security in the world, the best privacy in the world, and you can’t have trust also without transparency. I think that’s also a huge shift from the previous paradigm and, therefore, for our customers, we have to have as much transparency as possible. That’s how we build trust with our systems.

Neelie and I were sitting together and the Egyptian government made a decision to turn off the Internet in Egypt. We were sitting in a room with every telecommunications leader possible and she turned to me and said: “Is that trust? Is that transparency?”

It was incredible, actually. It was a seminal moment for me and you could tell that something amazing was happening.

Kroes: Can you imagine when not that long ago, we were faced with situations in the UK. Some were mentioning a line [that you] could just cut off. I was discussing it with my people and I said we need to be consistent and consequence [sic]... You should be consistent for trust is based on consistency.

Benioff: By the way, this is not just a Middle East issue or European issue, it’s an American issue. Just last week in San Francisco, we have something called the Bay Area Rapid Transit, which is our BART trains. My grandfather started it in the 1950s and created the architecture for a transit and so I have followed everything that happened with it. All of a sudden I found out that basically our government (even though it’s kind of a microcosm in that it’s the Transit Authority) turned off communication in the BART stations because they didn’t want protesters to be able to communicate with each other in the stations.

I think that it’s a common thing that leaders default to control. "Oh, well I don’t know what to do. Turn off the network. Oh, the protesters are at the BART stations. Shut it all down!" That’s an exciting part of transparency. That’s an exciting part of trust because those users are building the trust and transparency on their own. But I think we have to co-opt it in together.

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