The move to the cloud is one of the defining information technology trends of the early 21st century. By providing businesses, universities, government agencies, and other entities with access to shared and often physically dispersed computing resources, cloud computing can simultaneously offer increased flexibility, reduced cost, and access to a wider array of services.
Cloud computing has also created a set of new challenges. For example, the issues of privacy and security in the cloud are well recognized and have been extensively discussed in the business and popular press. However, one critical issue that has received very little attention with respect to cloud computing is export control.
In the broadest sense, export control relates to regulations that the United States and many other countries have put in place to restrict the export of various sensitive items, information, and software.
There is an inherent tension between cloud computing and export control. While the concept of the cloud is centered on the premise of removing the need to track the details of data movement among various destinations, export control regulations are built largely around restrictions tied to those very movements.
If cloud computing is to reach its full potential, it is critical for providers and users of cloud services to address its implications with respect to export control. It is equally important to adapt the export control regulations to reflect the increasing prevalence of cloud computing in a manner that preserves the ability of American companies to benefit from the efficiencies of the cloud while also ensuring that American national security and foreign policy interests are adequately protected.