Interview: Yushi Shen on leaving Microsoft, forming China Cloud Security Alliance, and China’s Thousand Talents Plan
By Wen Liu Jan. 26, 2018
I learned about an International Cloud Security Conference held last December in Anhui, China from my friend Hong Q. Wagner, who worked at the event. But it was Yushi Shen (沈寓实), in event photos, who caught my attention. Shen, signing an agreement representing China Cloud Security Alliance, not long ago was Director for Business Development, Government and Strategy, MS Cloud at Microsoft. Active for years in the China community in Seattle, Shen had served on the board of the Washington State China Relations Council among other non-profits. When and why did Shen leave Microsoft? Is he part of China’s reverse brain drain program called Thousand Talents Plan? What is China Cloud Security Alliance? And, of course, what was this Conference about? Here is Yushi Shen, squeezing in from his very busy schedules in China.
WCWD: It was a surprise to see that at the recent International Cloud Security Conference in Anhui, China, you represented China Cloud Security Alliance instead of Microsoft. When and why did you leave Microsoft, with a very successful career in Redmond, WA?
Yushi Shen: In 2013, my colleagues and I successfully landed Microsoft Azure and Office 365 in China, which is operated by 21Vianet Inc., the largest third party data center and Internet infrastructure provider in China. In early 2016, to promote better cooperation between China and the U.S. and to embrace the wave and opportunity of cyberspace in China, I decided to switch my role to 21Vianet Inc. I also saw the opportunity of building two great platforms, China Cloud System Pioneer Strategic Alliance and Cloud Security Alliance in China (C-CSA), which could help high-level communications between China and the U.S., and help international advanced cloud-based technologies and practices land in China.
WCWD: China has been recruiting overseas talents, especially China-born, those with PhDs and in tech industry, like yourself, with a program called Thousand Talents Plan. I assume that you probably have been part of the recruitment. Could tell us a little about the Plan or your connection to it?
Yushi Shen: China initiated the Thousand Talents Plan to achieve breakthroughs in key technologies and to enhance China's high-tech industries and emerging disciplines. Working on landing Microsoft Azure in China, I saw so many opportunities between the two countries, which could cooperate and build together a better international order and principles. U.S. has some high technologies and China has better test field and bigger market, my past experience and background definitely qualified me to do the job in this area.
WCWD: Now as the General Secretary of China Cloud Security Alliance, could you tell us a little about the organization, of which you are a founder, and/or about your job?
Yushi Shen: The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is the world’s leading organization dedicated to defining and raising awareness of best practices to help ensure a secure cloud computing environment. CSA harnesses the subject matter expertise of industry practitioners, associations, governments, and its corporate and individual members to offer cloud security-specific research, education, certification, events and products.
As for China-CSA, before I returned to China, there was already a community of local chapters. In 2014, Yale Li, who is Strategy Advisor for CSA Global, and I formed the Greater China Region CSA. Last year, we formed China-CSA.
There is also the China Cloud System Pioneer Strategic Alliance (CCSPSA). It is dedicated to building a community of cloud platform and service providers and end-users, related to academia and researchers, policy and regulation decision-makers and influencers. The mission is to promote the adoption and use of cloud-based technologies and solutions across all industry sectors, to develop breakthrough innovations and core technologies, to build up the comprehensive ecosystem for the cloud era in China and internationally.
I am Secretary General for both alliances, C-CSA and CCSPSA, which gives me a great platform to help not only MS but also other U.S. high-tech companies landing and expanding their business. Network security is a national strategy for both China and U.S. Cloud computing is the infrastructure of all high-tech (e.g.: AI, IoT). The two Alliances mutually promote cloud security and the development of cloud industry, which is my mission in Cloud computing, from a higher and broader perspective. The two Alliances' comprehensive and in-depth cooperation is in the integration of cross-border resources and the promotion of cross-border integration innovation.
WCWD: Back to the Conference you attended. What was the Conference about, what was the agreement you signed about, and what was the relationship between Cloud Security Alliance formed in 2008 in the U.S. and China Cloud Security Alliance?
Yushi Shen: The Agreement is for CSA and C-CSA to open discussions about the goals of security matters and share security achievements, jointly promote international cloud security exchanges and the development of cloud computing industry, and expand the space of independent innovation and coordinated development. The strong combination of CSA and C-CSA will help the international advanced experience meet the independent controllable national strategy. On the other hand, it will help bring China's excellent practices to the world. Now China is an emerging network of power, network speed is more popular and fast. C-CSA does more in-depth research to solve the four threats of cyberspace: terrorist attacks, network economic crimes, network public opinion chaos, and network arms race. Under the new security threat, the way of deterrence is not desirable. C-CSA must strongly promote international cooperation, the establishment and improvement of international intelligence sharing mechanism and pluralistic dialogue mechanism, so as to achieve strategic stability of cyberspace. This aligns with CSA's mission and also brings more Chinese practice and experience to CSA.
WCWD: As an expert in cloud computing, could you give the readers a general idea as to where the technology is in the U.S. vs. China, or Seattle, the cloud capital of the U.S., vs. Hangzhou, the home of Alibaba, which is aiming to be the cloud capital of China?
Yushi Shen: Cloud computing has been widely used in the United States and has penetrated into every corner of the IT industry and is widely used by various enterprises. China's cloud computing is just beginning to move towards substantive applications, the market is lagging behind the U.S. The proportion of cloud computing in China's overall IT investment scale is increasing, however, and the application of cloud computing will become more and more popular. China is more focused on private cloud and hybrid cloud.
In cloud computing, the United States is the undisputed leader, in server virtualization, network technology (SDN), the core technology of distributed storage technology, computing, OS, development language and platform, strong innovation and capital transformation ability, support of new technology, and leading enterprises with long-term accumulation of technology, talent and market.
Most of China's product development is based on two routines, one is modified on the basis of open source software in the United States, and the other is product introduction, sales and packaging. In the past 10 years, although there were three giants BAT, ZTE, HUAWEI and other companies invested heavily in R & D resources, with many start-up companies in technology research, the number of companies that truly master the core technology of cloud computing is still too small, accumulation of technology, talent and market insufficient, it is difficult to form a dominant industry chain.
In recent years since I moved back, China has realized the importance of cloud computing. The state has invested heavily in cloud technology research and policy, and has attracted a lot of foreign strategic cooperation. As a network power, China had a slow start, but China will develop cloud computing with Chinese characteristics in a unique national environment. Domestic cloud computing enterprises are mainly concentrated in Beijing, Guangdong, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Sichuan, the six major provinces or municipalities directly under the central government, accounting for 82% of the total. In terms of support of the cloud computing industry, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu and other central cities have developed comprehensive and industrial chain planning. The relevant policy system is also complete.
(For more information on major events in Washington state-China relations, go to WA China Chronicle.)