Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Google's Finland Data Center Was A Security-Savvy Move

One of the biggest security issues with cloud computing is the location of data centers in high risk countries like Russia, China, India, Brazil, etc. If the country has laws which allow their security services to demand access to the foreign-owned data center, you've got a problem. If the country's own ICT infrastructure is "pwned", you've got a problem. Unlike other large cloud providers, Google made a smart move by building its data center in Finland, just a few hours away from the Russian Federation. My company regularly provides due diligence research on foreign supply chains and state security issues and here's a brief summary of our analysis on Google Russia.

OOO Google (Общество с ограниченной ответственностью Гугл) is Google’s Russian subsidiary.  Google’s activity is Russia is consistent with a desire to expand the Russian market and exploit Russia’s reservoir of IT professionals while minimizing Google’s vulnerability to the Russian government.  OOO Google employees listed on Russian social networking sites are usually graduates of Russia’s elite universities.  Google’s largest capital investment pertinent to the Russian market, however, is an approximately $500 million datacenter in Finland.  The datacenter enjoys excellent communication links with Russia enabling Google to service and support expanding Russian activity without giving the Russian government leverage over Google.  In sum, Google is approaching the Russian market with its eyes open.

OOO Google
According to Google.ru, all sales and engineering activity are conducted from the Moscow and St. Petersburg offices.  However, press and Google.com cover the opening of a major new datacenter in Finland (appendix for articles) in 2011.  The capital cost of the land and building are listed as $260 million before the installation of servers.  Similar Google datacenters are listed as approximately $500 million when complete.  Google uses an innovative design with servers located in standardized containers enabling rapid construction and easy expansion by adding additional containers.  Google servers run on Linux.  Russia is particularly strong in Linux developers since it is the Russian government’s preferred operating system.

The new datacenter enjoys excellent communications with Russia.  However, Russian press frequently contains accusations of Google colluding with foreign intelligence services against Russia.  As a result, Google is probably wise to locate the new facility outside Russia to prevent the Russian government using the facility as a hostage.

Google Vulnerabilities in Russia
Google’s primary vulnerability at this point is probably penetration by Russian intelligence services through a recruited asset.  Placing the new datacenter is Finland shows Google is sensitive to the baggage that comes with making a significant capital investment in Russia.  However, Russian press shows Russia’s intelligence services view Google as a threat.  As a result, penetrating Google’s Russia activities would be a priority.  Indeed, the Google circle on moikrug.ru shows five employees with previous experience at Luxoft, a Russian software firm with excellent Federal Security Service connections.


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