SAN FRANCISCO -- Structure 2016 -- Attendees at this cloud conference were optimistic that the Donald Trump presidency wouldn't slow cloud momentum. But the potential for mischief is great.
"The cloud is going to happen," Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and chief strategy officer for Box.net, told Light Reading in an interview Wednesday. "That has little to do with who won the election. The train has left the station, the arguments for it are compelling. It's too late to alter the course."
Peter Christy, research director, 451 Research, agreed. "The motivation for going to the cloud is as a platform for business agility," he said.
"The movement to the cloud is a huge structural transition in the IT industry," said Guido Appenzeller, chief technology strategy officer for the Network Security Business Unit at VMware. "I don't think any political event can stop that. For us, as a company, our customers continue to need the products we are building."
But Trump could potentially push policies that could impose new data sovereignty regulations, restrict immigration of people with technical skills needed to drive innovation, and even prosecute Amazon.
However, we don't really know what Trump will do. During his campaign, Trump has often made statements contradicting himself on policy issues.
"I don't think we know yet what his actual policies are," Christy says. "I don't think the policies are going to be a continuation of what he did to cater to the people who elected him."
Trump has promised to build a physical wall to keep out illegal immigration. He might also push to set up a digital wall on data -- enacting strict data sovereignty laws such as we now see in Europe, requiring that American business data physically reside on American soil, said Ashwin Krishnan, senior vice president of product management and strategy for HyTrust, a vendor providing security software for the VMware stack.
The Trump administration, joined by Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, might also enact regulations similar to China, requiring that companies disclose customer data to government, said Eric Chiu, Hytrust founder and president. That's suggested by Trump's criticism of Apple for refusing to cooperate with the FBI to hack into the iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino terror shooting suspect. Trump called for an Apple boycott.
Greater data sovereignty and disclosure requirements will leave businesses scrambling to comply, Chiu said. "It's like most security issues -- most people put it on the back burner," he said. Security issues only become a priority during a crisis.
Cloud providers and enterprises can adapt to data sovereignty requirements, Appenzeller said. "Some degree of data sovereignty is like gravity for Boeing -- it makes their life more complicated but it gives them a stronger value proposition." US data sovereignty would make business more complex, but won't stop it.
"Europe is still adopting the cloud pretty healthily," Patel said.
Immigration policy is another question mark looming above the cloud -- and the entire tech industry. Trump has promised to sharply limit the H-1B visa program, under the auspices of which many tech workers come to the US.
"It's fair to say Silicon Valley benefits from the best and the brightest," said Appenzeller, a German national based in Silicon Valley. "Hypothetically, zero immigration for Silicon Valley would be a problem. It doesn't look likely."
One big cloud loser for the Trump administration might be Amazon Web Services Inc. Trump has said Amazon's Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post to provide political cover to keep Amazon's taxes low and help the company avoid antitrust scrutiny. The newspaper was harshly critical of Trump's candidacy.
Trump said in February that if he became President, "oh do they have problems. They're going to have such problems."
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— Mitch Wagner, , Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud