Cloud computing promises to liberate its adherents from the bother of messy implementations of software, while also freeing them from the constraints of hardware capacity. At the same time, however, cloud computing has the potential to deliver the ultimate in vendor lock-in.
My colleague, James Urquhart, has put together a proposed "cloud computing bill of rights" to help guide would-be cloud customers to those clouds best able to guarantee their freedom. Just as some are now clamoring for open-data commitments, James' suggestions are intended to deliver the value of the cloud without the lock-in:
No vendor shall, in the course of its relationship with any customer, claim ownership of any data uploaded, created, generated, modified, hosted or in any other way associated with the customer's intellectual property, engineering effort or media creativity. This also includes account configuration data, customer generated tags and categories, usage and traffic metrics, and any other form of analytics or meta data collection....
Vendors shall always provide, at a minimum, API level access to all customer data as described above. This API level access will allow the customer to write software which, when executed against the API, allows access to any customer maintained data, either in bulk or record-by-record as needed.
The Cloud Computing Bill of Rights is far more extensive than this, but I invite you to visit James' post to comment and help improve it. For the open-source friendly among us, we're going to have to look beyond licenses to protect essential user freedoms in the world of clouds, as Tim O'Reilly insists. James has offered a good start on how to go about doing this.