by Michael Bullock

Iran: Cloud Computing and Social Networking for Despots

Jun 18, 20093 mins
Data Center

In the U.S., it takes weeks to count ballots. Not in Iran. The answer must be cloud.

The recent Iranian election demonstrates the mind boggling power of cloud computing, social networking, and the role technology can play to improve the predictability of politics.

Think about it.  Here in the U.S., it takes weeks to count millions of ballots in Florida and a few months to count thousands of ballots in Minnesota. But in Iran the vote counting is nearly instantaneous.

Consider how much more efficient things are in Iran where they can count millions of hand-written ballots – with fully consolidated reporting – in a matter of hours.  Obviously, they must have some serious Persian/Farsi-based character recognition software in addition to computing capacity equal to Google’s and the NSA’s. Combined.    

Now while I don’t claim to be an insider (and—full disclosure—the Iranian government is not one of my company’s clients), I’m almost certain this astounding speed was achieved with the aid of cloud computing. There is simply is no other reasonable explanation.  So there you have it: today, Iran, unlike the U.S., is able to leverage cloud computing.

And consider the apparently ubiquitous adoption of social networking in Iran. It appears that those Iranians unhappy with the voting process (not to mention the result) are relying heavily on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to voice their displeasure, using proxy servers to get around government interference.

Now the last thing any self-respecting despotic government needs is improved, real-time social communication networks that can empower citizens. But what, as any aspiring dictator might ask, can you do? Well, Iran is not taking its citizens’ exercise of digital freedom lying down. According to ComputerWorld, Iran has declared cyberwar (Iran’s leaders fight Internet; Internet wins – so far ) in order to try to shut up those voters who don’t seem to appreciate the government’s technological advancements in vote-counting in the cloud.  

Alas, as ComputerWorld reports, the Internet is a tough enemy “because of the resilience of a communications grid originally designed to be both resilient and pervasive. In fact, [the government’s] actions may also be crippling banking systems and hindering commerce in what is a technologically advanced nation. Cutting off Internet access affects more than Web sites or Twitter and Facebook. Credit card and ATM systems could be affected, as could critical infrastructures.”

This all goes to prove that cloud computing is alive and well in Iran. I’m not so sure about the instantaneous vote-counting application (it could be vaporware), but clearly social applications like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are operating in a cloud/SaaS model.

So there you have it: rigged elections, a killer application to drive cloud computing and social networking. The U.S. better get on the stick. Clearly, we’re facing a cloud computing gap.  

As always, I welcome your comments, tips, insights and topic suggestions.  You can reach me at

Michael Bullock is the founder and CEO of Transitional Data Services (TDS), a Boston, MA-based consulting firm that specializes in data center optimization / design / build,  data center consolidation / relocation, enterprise applications and technical operations.  Prior to founding TDS, Bullock held executive leadership positions at Student Advantage, CMGI and Renaissance Worldwide.