Making a Europe fit for the cloud

While Europe teeters on the brink of financial armageddon, the European Commission (EC) claims that a coherent cloud strategy for the bloc could generate 127bn per year and create 3.8 million jobs.

In its Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe report, the EC suggests that implementing a coherent cloud strategy across the region could cut the operational costs of IT departments for all types of organisations, along with boosting productivity and growth.

According to the report, three key areas need to be addressed in order to enable a workable cloud strategy across Europe.

The first is cutting through the jungle of technical standards. Technology providers currently fight for market share by locking their customers into their service, preventing the adoption of standardised, cross-industry approaches to the cloud. This prevents interoperability, data portability and reversibility (the ability of customers to take data and functions back in-house again), making cross-European cloud implementation difficult. The EC wants to identify methods to implement standardisation of cloud services across Europe by next year, the first step in a process that envisages lasting until 2020.

The report also identifies contractual issues. Cloud contracts are often complex and uncertain, leading to worries over data access and portability. It also suggests that while take-it-or-leave-it contracts might be advantageous for cloud providers, theyre often undesirable for users of the service, with many failing to identify liability in the case of failures due to downtime, for example, or to make clear how service issues will be compensated and resolved.

While EU legislation to protect cloud users is already in place, consumers are often unaware that it exists or how it operates in their own member state. The EC therefore proposes that model terms for cloud computing contracts be developed to standardise best practice, with the IT industry being consulted on a code of conduct for cloud providers. It is hoped an agreement on a code will be reached in 2013.

Reducing market fragmentation

The fragmentation of the digital single market also needs to be addressed before a coherent cloud strategy can be implemented across Europe. Currently, the different national legal frameworks across member states (see below), combined with uncertainties over how digital content and data laws operate when crossing borders, stand in the way of a single European standard.

The theory is that by collaborating on cloud strategy, member states will reduce fragmentation across Europe in areas such as law and digital security, allowing better detection and prevention of cyber-crime.

Thats not to say the strategy is based around a European Super-Cloud, a suggestion the EC is keen to refute. Instead, the aim of the policy is to provide an umbrella organisation. This European Cloud Partnership will bring together industry experts and public-sector agencies such as those responsible for G-Cloud in the UK and Andromede, its equivalent in France in order to help provide a cloud infrastructure that all member states will benefit from. Identifying the key needs of the public sector is seen as a vital issue in successful implementation of an EU cloud strategy.

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Making a Europe fit for the cloud

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