Internet, a primary asset


From California, an Eastwest exclusive. Stephen Brobst, Hermann Wimmer and Mike Kohler analyse the future of the web amid net neutrality, privacy and cloud computing as they are perceived in the US and the EU.


This year, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted in favour of net neutrality and making internet access a public good. In theory, this should ban the twospeed internet model, which would allow internet providers to speed up content delivery to consumers who pay higher premiums. Clearly, the major telecommunications companies – such as Verizon, Comcast and AT&T– disapprove. We met with Stephen Brobst, CTO of the Teradata Corporation, at the 2015 Teradata PARTNERS conference in Anaheim to discuss net neutrality and privacy.

What is your position on net neutrality? Will it change the relationship between internet users and major telecommunications service providers?

SB: Internet was born free and transparent and the ongoing discussions in the US and Europe must reinforce these qualities. I am in favour of keeping the internet access structure as it is, and the concept of net neutrality is already present in the way internet is organised. In Europe there have also been discussions about the physical residence of the data managed by US multinationals such as Google and Facebook. The Safe Harbour agreement, first stipulated in 1998 between the US and the EU, has been called into question because it allows the transfer of data from European to American servers guaranteeing an appropriate level of privacy and security. The NSA (National Security Administration) scandals on data surveillance have led the EU to suspend the agreement and insist that web service providers involved in processing European citizens’ data create server farms on European soil subject to the privacy rules established by the European Commission and forbidding their transfer.

Will the European Commission’s decision concerning privacy and data residence in Europe guarantee greater security for its citizens?

SB: Providing greater security has nothing to do with where the physical data is actually stored and there’s little sense in linking the concept of privacy to the physical location of our data. What is important is how the data is processed, the levels of security and information encryption, which have a serious bearing on management costs. It’s up to the consumers to decide what services they want to use based on the levels of security provided and it’s to the company’s advantage to offer the highest security levels possible so as not to undermine the quality of their brand. There’s plenty of talk about cloud services even in terms of cost savings for companies that offer online services. Previously, it was necessary to have one’s own servers and hardware architecture, which involved considerable material costs, maintenance and management of data security. Without cloud-computing architecture, companies like Netflix or Google could not provide services at such low costs. We discussed cloud computing with Hermann Wimmer (copresident, Teradata Corporation) and Mike Kohler (president and CEO, Teradata Corporation).

In Europe, cloud technologies are discussed in terms of their potential as well as problems regarding privacy management. Will it be more complicated for foreign companies to operate in Europe given the greater focus on the concept of privacy?

HW: Many companies are gearing up to comply with EU regulations. The increase in the use of cloud services will probably be slower than in the US, but the benefits of cloud services in terms of cost and performance compared to ‘on-premise’ solutions with the same functions will be self-evident. MK: The companies that offer cloud services have more resources and technologies compared to entirely managed solutions, and this is an advantage that in the long run will lead to a greater exploitation of these platforms.

In Europe, and particularly in Italy, the economy relies heavily on small- and medium- sized businesses. Can the cloud services available for the creation of web applications and big data analysis help smaller operations develop new online business models?

HW: Undoubtedly. Investments by the various cloud architecture service providers will expand the number of users and help them improve the experience of their consumers. Italy is an excellent example of how many different kinds of commercial operations can approach the world of big data regardless of their size and thus increase brand loyalty.