Cloud transcends Firewall

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Global Times, June 23, 2011
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The construction of China's first international cloud computing hub is progressing apace in Chongqing, a local official told the Global Times Wednesday, adding that the zone will be free from any Internet content oversight.

"We have completed the outline of the International Cloud Computing Special Zone in the city's Liangjiang New Area. The first phase of construction is set to be completed in three years," said an official surnamed Li with the Chongqing Economic and Information Technology Commission. "There have been several foreign enterprises signing contracts to do business in the zone."

The special zone, covering about 10 square kilometers, is the only area in China that is directly connected to the outside Internet through optical fibers without being filtered, according to the Southern Weekend.

Foreign companies can run offshore data services in the special zone after obtaining a license for telecommunications and data management businesses. Some can even keep a 100 percent shareholding of businesses in the zone, the newspaper reported.

The first company to enter the special zone was the China International Electronic Commerce Center under the Ministry of Commerce. Its construction began in April, covering 250,000 square meters with a budget of 1.6 billion yuan ($247.56 million).

Singapore-based Pacific Telecommunications, which is the largest independent telecommunication service provider in the Asia-Pacific region, followed suit by investing 150 million yuan in two buildings that will host 30,000 servers.

Shan Jinliang, a press officer with Taiwan-based computer maker Acer, told the Global Times that Chongqing's project to set up China's first cloud business zone is in line with the company's development plans in this field.

"With lower labor costs and convenient transportation, Chongqing has a favorable business environment. The special zone this time definitely would add to the city's ability to attract investment," Shan said.

According to Li, Acer is planning to build its largest global production base in the Liangjiang New Area.

However, before obtaining approval to build the special zone, the proposal was denied several times by government bodies for reasons of information security, the Southern Weekend reported, citing Chongqing officials.

According to the paper, under government regulations, an IT business in China cannot have foreign holdings, and data services run by overseas companies must undergo government inspections.

One factor that helped gain approval for Chongqing's cloud special zone is that the Liangjiang New Area is important to the development of western China.

The Chongqing government also agreed to meet several requirements, such as data services for clients within China still under government administration, and relevant departments having the authority to carry out sample inspections on the data in the special zone, the report said.

Cao Yujie, consultant director of CCW Research, an IT market research and consulting agency in Beijing, told the Global Times that the cloud computing business is in its early stages worldwide, adding that there is great potential for its development.

"A special optical cable directly connected to the outside Internet is not necessary to run a cloud zone, but its installation in Chongqing could be attributed to demands of foreign companies as some websites are blocked in China," Cao said.

The establishment of the zone is also part of Chongqing's plan to build an IT industrial base. According to the Southern Weekend, several major laptop brands have set up factories in Chongqing, including Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Asus.

Separately, the future of cloud computing technology is also being debated, as some analysts express concerns over the safety of storing data online.

"One reason you should not use web applications to do your computing is that you lose control. If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenseless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software," Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, told the Guardian.

Cloud computing has been dubbed a revolutionary technology of the information era. Its concept involves storing data, software and various kinds of services on remote servers that can be reached through an Internet connection.

Users can access, change and interact with the data and services anywhere and at anytime as long as they have a connection. With everything carried by the cloud system, they will not have to store data on a hard drive, or install software on their PCs to run them.

Internet giants such as Microsoft, Google and IBM are all investing in the cloud business. The technology is now also part of China's national strategy for the development of the next generation of the IT industry.

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