Digital Agenda for Europe
A Europe 2020 Initiative

Cloud computing across Europe: public launch of the Cloud-for-Europe initiative

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The Cloud-for-Europe initiative – a partnership focused on developing cloud procurement requirements – received a high profile launch in the presence of European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves on 14-15 November 2013 in Berlin.

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Cloud-for-Europe (C4E) is a key piece in the European Cloud Computing Strategy. The public sector initiative will investigate the cloud procurement requirements of public organisations using pre-commercial procurement across Europe. It is a double partnership, on the one hand between public sector organisations, and on the other with industry.

President Ilves and Vice-President Kroes were in town for the third meeting of the European Cloud Partnership Steering Board. This focused on the follow-up to the October 2013 European Council, in which Heads of State highlighted the importance of the work done by the European Cloud Partnership and called for the framework conditions for a single market for cloud services to be developed.

The importance of trust

The C4E launch conference was attended by about 200 participants, many of whom came from the private sector. The two days were sub-divided into six sessions. Opening keynote addresses were delivered by President Ilves, Vice- President Kroes and the German Federal IT Commissioner and State Secretary, Cornelia Rogall-Grothe. The second session focused on a single European market for cloud services. It was no surprise that trust and data security came out as overarching concerns.

Discussions explored the merits of economy of scale versus the relative safety of keeping data in domestic services. It is clear that a trustworthy cloud environment across Europe is a basic requirement for cloud usage to take off.

Cooperation and diversity

Another session focused on the public sector cloud across Europe. Many countries have already embarked on a variety of cloud initiatives: some have developed an overall policy; others have taken steps towards quick cloud adoption in small chunks, to ‘bootstrap’ the market. Some countries have sought to lay the foundations for trust and security, while others are working on providing the operational means for full-blown end-to-end cloud solutions. The Cloud-for-Europe initiative provides a cooperation platform where those behind the different approaches can come together to exchange experiences and consolidate best approaches and operational requirements for public sector adoption.

Obviously cloud computing is not only a market issue. It should also be adequately positioned within the digital service infrastructure. This was discussed in a dedicated session, with a focus on standards and the re-use of components from different areas and across borders – the future will bring a mix of cloud use models. Ensuring an open transition and growth path is a key priority for the public sector.

High tech SMEs are a key feature of Europe’s emerging cloud industry and most public administrations have a specific requirements and a local focus. Can Europe’s cloud SMEs therefore be the first to respond to the emergent demand for cloud sourcing government IT? In this context, session 5 addressed service provisioning models. Concrete examples presented at the conference illustrated that SMEs can be very successful in providing specific cloud services, spanning from infrastructure to brokering. Given the nature of the European IT landscape, the role of SMEs in cloud provisioning is of particular importance for the European economy and offers promising opportunities.

The conference was wrapped up with a look at the overall question of how to prepare the way ahead for the cloud in Europe. Although we are entering new territory, we can draw upon lessons learnt from past digital developments. Interoperability and security should be built in from the start, while data protection and compliance with relevant standards are inherent requirements, along with service level agreements and portability. Public sector procurers can and should be a driving force for a trustworthy European cloud space. And SMEs should tailor their services to satisfy customer needs.

Epilogue

An important objective of the European cloud strategy is to create an environment that helps public sector organisations to procure cloud computing services within a dynamic single market. The objective is not to regulate this market, but to mobilise it, to help the public sector to procure in an informed manner and get maximum value for money.

The C4E initiative has to be seen in this light. The public sector has to make well-considered procurement decisions and put forward requirements that drive technological and business decisions towards the use of best-available-technologies at competitive prices. This is what C4E is about, as a partnership between public sector organisations across Europe and using pre-commercial procurement with industry. Usage scenarios and service catalogues for cloud adoption are in development.

The next steps will be to transform these insights into specific work streams and requirements for the Cloud-for-Europe initiative, and the conference was very enriching in putting all the issues and options on the table.


Further reading

 

(Article from net-cloud future magazine (2013) - for complete magazine click here)