24 May 2023
When Amazon Web Services decided to stop the app Parler accessing its services, many Europeans and Swiss citizens and media pundits had a mixed reaction. So did I. Obviously I didn't subscribe to Parler (frankly, I' had never heard of it actually before) but I understand that, as The Guardian reports, most of the contents shared in this social media had a thinly veiled (or not veiled) racist undertone.
I loathe racism and discriminations in any form and I could even be happy that racists and rightwing radical people and organizations will find it more difficult to spread their ideas.
But this is just a part of the story. Politics aside, we saw a private company (the one managing the app Parler) incapacitated to operate because another private company, (AWS) decided to shut its access to its services.
I wonder if this might have happened if the cloud provider were a Swiss company. I guess that this wouldn't have been even thinkable in a country as Switzerland rooted in its 'old school' liberalism and slow (sometimes too slow) in subscribing to shifts in the public sentiment.
Apparently Parler didn't shift overnight his operations to another cloud. Why? Possibly because they couldn't.
Probably they use (or better they did use) AWS not just for storing their data and channelling their data streams. Probably Parler app was inextricably linked with AWS, using its proprietary microfunctions sold 'as a service'. Last Sunday they have registered the app on another server and apparently, they are frantically rewriting their code in order to be operative again.
But their momentum has vanished. Politics aside, this is a tail risk that should be taken into account. We saw that in a matter of days a consensus has been formed about a small and almost unknown company and, without any judiciary or administrative intervention, this company has been effectively prevented to operate. Tail risks happen. A company should be aware of them.
Software as a Service and 'functions as a service' have their advantages in term of costs, time to market, flexibility. But these formulas create a 'vendor lock-in' situation that could substantially reduce the freedom of action of a company.
Conversely, a company using Infrastructure as a service (even on an AWS-managed cloud) could in a matter of days migrate its operations on a different Cloud Provider. Suppliers even the best and brightest among them, shouldn’t be able to become a company master or its judge.