What Is Cloud Neutrality, and Why Does It Matter to Your Business?

As you likely already know, cloud computing represents an enormous business opportunity for organizations both small and large, coupled with the capacity to level the playing field for smaller firms. Unfortunately, like many new technologies, the cloud can also lend itself to a great deal of abuse. This is precisely why cloud neutrality is so essential – and why it’s critical that you understand what it is.

What IS Cloud Neutrality?

You wouldn’t be incorrect in assuming that cloud neutrality has a very similar meaning to carrier neutrality. In essence, it refers to an environment in which there is healthy competition between cloud providers. No vendor has an unfair advantage over any other vendor, and clients making use of a particular cloud service are not locked out of using other cloud services.

More specifically, it also means that if a cloud provider has other providers using its applications or co-locating at its data center, it allows this competition to exist. It doesn’t attempt to unfairly stymie its competitors, nor does it directly compete with any of its clients. Everyone gets a fair shake, and we’re left to choose whichever vendor provides the best, most effective service.

Why Should You Care?

These days, it’s fairly typical for a single business to utilize multiple, interoperable cloud providers. A business might, for example, turn to an IaaS vendor to manage its infrastructure, a SaaS vendor for a workflow application, and a PaaS vendor to provide a development environment. Imagine, for a moment, that the same business was locked into a contract with a single cloud provider, and could only choose certain vendors for its needs.

Rather limiting, isn’t it? That’s far from the only reason cloud neutrality is so critical, either.

“Possible anti-competitive behaviors [due to a non-neutral cloud]…might include refusal to deal and/or grant interoperability (including blocking of applications and content); preferential
or exclusivity agreements along the vertical value chain, and vertical integration leading to discrimination of competitors at certain layers of the Internet/cloud ecosystem,” reads a white paper released by the European University Institute. “More generally, the same practices that have been considered as potentially anticompetitive at the infrastructure and, most notably, logical
layer of the Internet within the so-called “net neutrality” debate will become
applicable to all other gatekeepers of the Internet and the cloud, including search providers and cloud providers.“

In other words, cloud neutrality is about more than just ensuring every cloud vendor gets a fair shake at a data center. A facility that fails to provide a cloud-neutral environment could easily open the gates to other failures of neutrality. And if such anticompetitive tactics become the norm, everyone suffers.