By Clark Atwood
While you were enjoying hot dogs, hamburgers and apple pie, the President of the United States took it upon himself to create an executive order on July 6, 2012, to take control of the Internet and implement an Internet kill switch (official White House press release here).
Lets set aside the conspiracy theories regarding controlling the country under martial law, denying the American people access to news sources, and more. This executive order represents a real threat to all businesses during an emergency and sales of cloud-based services.
The Government Takes Away Benefits. Small business is turning to the cloud in droves. The indirect sales channel and cloud providers are selling these services with promises of lower costs, being a green company by using data centers off-site, and redundancy for uptime DURING emergency situations. Through this executive order, The President of the United States has the authority to shut down critical business connectivity and threatens all of those promises.
Like many companies, our own company has moved to cloud-based services in recent years with few systems or data remaining in our physical offices. All of our systems rely upon the Internet, an MPLS circuit and our cloud-based providers. To have the government state that in the event of an emergency, they can shut down our business, greatly diminishes the value of the architecture that was put in place to avoid downtime in the event of an emergency.
One Example. It is a scary thought that President Obamas ability to ensure that all medical records in the United States are converted into the electronic format by 2014” is in direct conflict with the executive order signed by the President on July 6, 2012. Under the guise of keeping the government operating, he has established the right to deny your doctor access to your Electric Medical Records (EMR). Most of these records are being stored in data centers and access through secure connections via the Internet. They are more secure than on-premises systems and the aggregation of the record systems means costs are typically lower. In an emergency, including a natural disaster, the government may seize control of the Internet and deny access to critical systems that may save lives.
The Cost of Control. Some of the technical problems with the order are it must provide, operate, and maintain communication services and facilities adequate to execute” the order. The Internet has more than 65,000 autonomous networks with more than 144,000 peering connections. There is not a single registry for ISPs; however, most estimates of the number of Internet Service Providers in the U.S. exceed 5,000.
This executive order will be very costly to monitor, maintain and oh yes, test. Imagine tests on your Internet access like you have on the Emergency Broadcast System. Only you wont get an annoying message preceded by screeching sounds like on your radio. You will just get a message from your system like backup failed” or VPN lost connectivity,” or worse, No Internet Access.”
In addition to disrupting services, the management of this system will likely slow the growth of bandwidth. Because the government must keep its system up with the ISP, are they going to limit the ISP to a certain number of connections? What about the size of those connections? What is the process for getting approval for more bandwidth or another peering connection? What about management of converged networks? Slowing bandwidth growth will kill not only sales, but our economy, which is being fueled by new on-demand services and cloud-based business applications.
Its Not Just Internet Control. The network implications are enormous. Envision inside many large providers redundant Juniper or Cisco routers. These routers are there to manage the providers network and route traffic. You see, many providers converged all of their networks onto a single IP-based system including their Internet backbones. Depending on how the executive order is implemented, the Internet shutdown” likely will affect long distance, point-to-point circuits, MPLS and other systems, all of which are converged on single networks with redundant connections and packet prioritization by the provider. This executive order, if implemented improperly, can kill a companys Wide Area Network (WAN), disable long-distance calls and more. In short, this executive order likely gives the government control over all business communication including private network connections.
Channel Impact. The fear that is sure to come to light soon regarding this executive order will stall sales. The problem is that premises-based solutions still rely heavily on network connectivity. Even though a company may not elect to go with a public cloud service, they may have a private cloud with centralized critical systems located in a data center or their corporate office connected via private WAN and public internet connections.
We Must Ask: How can the President justify denying your doctor access to your records on a system that was designed to be operational during an emergency and route around systems that may have been damaged? How can the government take control of a system whose individual parts are owned by private companies and the transmission of data is primarily through private peering connections? Did the government forget that Internet Protocol networks were created and designed specifically to be operational during a nuclear attack? If the system is designed for resiliency, then why does the government need to control a system that was designed to be operational during a disaster?
This executive order is a disaster for businesses, the economy and our country.
Clark Atwood is president of Concierge Communications, a master agent for more than 40 communications providers.