Compliance as a Service: Does It Exist?

Peter Coffee from Salesforce.com was recently quoted in the Australian edition of Computer Weekly talking about the prospect of Compliance as a Service:

“There are composite solutions [to compliance issues]: build the application in the cloud using nothing but anonymous tokens to identify customers… but that is not trivially easy to do,” he said.

“Instead, compliance as a service maybe be offered where [the service provider] acts as an intermediate layer of your application that takes care of a variety of things. They could indemnify the customer against any issues around personally identifiable information crossing boundaries.”

Under such a compliance service, a service provider would accept the burden of knowing the rules, court precedents and regulations which are industry-specific, Coffee said. Responsibility to sanitise data wherever it left the country over a broadband link would move from the customer to the service provider.

“Layers upon layers of new services will emerge representing new layers of expertise and therefore new layers of profitability for those providing services with that kind of value. I think that’s happening now and more so all the time.”

If you consider the cost, complexity, misinterpretations and challenges that organisations face trying to be ‘compliant’ today with their in-house IT, “Compliance as a Service” (CaaS) has to be a Cloud marketeer’s dream!

More seriously, how else can you enforce continued compliance across multiple service providers? This comes back to the notion of packaging security policy along with data, such that in a multi-Cloud provider environment, there is a way to establish automagically who can meet the policy requirements on a dynamic basis.  But would you trust the digital word of the providers?  A provider could accidentally or intentionally affirm compliance with a digitally transmitted policy and go on to accept/process workloads in Clouds that are not suitable/compliant for the data.

Could a 3rd party CaaS inserted “man in the middle” style, act as a trusted arbitrator? If a CaaS provider offers to bear liability for compliance misses and was able to satisfactorily hide the complexity of compliance for the right price, you could foresee such a provider establishing a dominant position in the Cloud-o-sphere.

Right now though, this is all speculation on my part.  Does anyone know of such a service or are you developing one? I’d love to hear about it.

Written on March 27, 2009 by Craig Balding
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