Practice makes perfect. In daily life, if someone has proven experience and a good reputation in specific area for relatively long time, we would normally consider them to be trustworthy. For example, if Amazon Web Services claimed that it was a trusted public cloud service provider — if not the most trusted provider — not many professionals in the US would argue against that.

However, this does not necessarily hold true in China; cloud service providers need to receive an official authorization from the government that certifies them as a provider of trusted cloud services (TRUCS). I recently attended the International Mobile and Internet Conference, where I got an update on TRUCS.

  • TRUCS is an official recognition of standards compliance and quality. TRUCS is issued by the trusted cloud servicesworking group of the China Academy of Telecommunications Research of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The working group defined the basic principles in June 2013; earlier this year, it finalized the evaluation standards in the form of a cloud service agreement reference framework.

TRUCS aims at market education and standardization. The latest assessment framework covers five categories: cloud hosting services, object storage services, cloud database services, block storage services, and cloud engine services. Each category contains 16 evaluation criteria to assess together with provider characteristics such as data sustainability and disposability, business availability, and disaster recovery capability.

  • Nearly 20 companies have been certified, but there’s no one-size-fits-all provider.The initial list of TRUCS-certified vendors included 10 local companies: 21ViaNet, Alibaba, Baidu, JD, China Cache, China Mobile, China Telecom, Sina, Tencent, and UCloud. Recent additions to the list: ChinaNetCenter, GDS, Huawei, Inspur, Kingsoft, Qihoo, Suzhou International Science Park Data Center, and Yovole. No vendor has been authorized across all five categories; 21ViaNet, which is a partner of global cloud service providers like Microsoft Azure, covers three of the five — cloud hosting, object storage, and database — the most of any vendor.
  • TRUCS may be extended and used for official procurement. The trusted cloud services working group will now start evaluating standards for other areas, such as desktop cloud and software-as-a-service, and extend TRUCS to specific industries. We believe that the Chinese government will start purchasing cloud services in the next six to 12 months and might make TRUCS certification a necessary qualification for inclusion on cloud service provider shortlists. TRUCS might also become a barrier to some service partners, especially local partners of foreign cloud players — one that the Chinese government could leverage during contract negotiations.

It’s not easy to gain trust, and the word “trusted” can have different meanings. We believe that TRUCS’ significance is more symbolic than practical, but sometimes you don’t have a choice if you want to be part of the game. One bit of good news: The government has yet to set rules for the private cloud segment, so clients can still leverage a mature assessment framework like the Forrester Wave™ for private cloud (a Wave focusing on the Chinese market should be available by the end of the year) to make a better purchasing decision.