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News in brief: AWS revenue set for rapid growth, HIPAA to address cloud

In these briefs, experts predict big growth for Amazon Web Services' revenue, FedRAMP approves its first cloud provider, and HIPAA modifications pend.

AWS revenue growing faster than expected, analysts say

New research from financial analysts at Macquarie Capital, a division of Australian investment banking giant Macquarie Group Ltd., showed Amazon Web Services is set to generate an expected $3.8 billion in revenue this year, according to a report from ZDNet. That puts AWS' standalone worth somewhere between $19 and $30 billion -- notably high figures relative to past Wall Street estimates. Macquarie analyst Ben Schachter, who wrote the research note, said AWS' revenue growth -- already moving at a faster clip than that of Amazon's retail business -- will continue as the company lands more large enterprise customers.

Macquarie's research note last week coincided with a stock upgrade for Amazon, after Morgan Stanley analyst Scott Devitt raised the price target to $325 a share, according to Barron's. Devitt called AWS a strategic asset for Amazon, a point reinforced by the Macquarie report. By 2015, AWS will account for 7% of Amazon's revenue, bringing in an expected $8.8 billion annually, the Macquarie report estimated.

Cloud security guidelines fall under blanket HIPAA modifications

Even as the role of cloud computing in health IT becomes increasingly important, U.S. government health officials remain reluctant to provide specific guidelines for the secure use of the technology.

Joy Pritts, chief privacy officer at the federal Office of the National Health Coordinator for Health IT, acknowledged that more information will inevitably move to the cloud, reported Pending modifications to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) will contain new regulations for all business associates with access to patient data, including cloud providers, Pritts said.

Privacy advocate Deborah Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a nonprofit patient advocacy group based in Austin, called for explicit guidelines in regards to the security of patient data in the cloud in a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services in December. But the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) appears to be taking a more relaxed approach to the issue, according to a statement the agency provided

"The HIPAA Security Rule requirements are technology-neutral. Cloud computing is but one pathway among many for storing and transacting electronic protected health information," an OCR spokeswoman told the website.

First cloud provider in the clear with FedRAMP standards

Autonomic Resources, a small Cary, N.C.-based cloud provider, last week became the first provider to officially pass FedRAMP standards and receive approval to sell cloud services to federal government customers, reported FedTech Magazine. The General Services Administration certified the company as part of an initiative to facilitate federal agencies' adoption of cloud services. The FedRAMP certification program, which requires cloud providers to fulfill a large menu of security requirements before selling to federal agencies, is intended to cut costs for the government by eliminating the need for its agencies to perform redundant security checks.

About 80 cloud providers, including larger companies like Microsoft, have also applied for authorization. The government is requiring all cloud providers it had pre-FedRAMP contracts with to adhere to the program's standards by 2014.

Nirvanix partners with CoreSite to provide direct access to its cloud storage

San Diego-based cloud storage provider Nirvanix recently announced a partnership with data center operator CoreSite Realty Corp., a move that will eliminate the need for CoreSite customers to use a separate Internet service provider to connect their hosted IT resources to Nirvanix's cloud, the company stated in a press release. As part of the partnership, Nirvanix has deployed one of its nodes in CoreSite's data center, giving CoreSite customers a direct, private network connection to Nirvanix's Cloud File System via a standard, single-mode fiber Ethernet, or an Any2 Internet exchange connection. CoreSite claims the ability to connect IT infrastructure directly to the cloud service provider will allow consumers to cut costs and improve performance. The move also represents a new avenue for Nirvanix to pursue prospective cloud storage customers.

Europeans raise privacy concerns with renewal of U.S. spy law

Another round of privacy concerns has reignited debate among European Union (EU) regulators, following the U.S.'s extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA), Salon reported. The act's renewal enables the federal government to maintain authorization to monitor foreign citizens' data stored in American cloud services without a warrant. A study by the French Centre for the Study of Conflicts, Liberty and Security made the case that FISA poses "a categorically much graver risk to EU data sovereignty than other laws hitherto considered by EU policy-makers," according to Salon. The report's author, Caspar Bowden, former chief privacy adviser at Microsoft Europe, told Slate the act allows the U.S. to carry out "continuous mass-surveillance of ordinary lawful democratic political activities."

American emotions have long run high over the act, which also sanctions warrantless government monitoring of calls and emails in and out of the country.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Madelyn Stone, editorial assistant.

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