The European Commission has published the final version of its cloud computing strategy, designed to drive European business and government productivity as part of its Digital Agenda. Guy Daniels reports.
If all 27 Member States successful adopt the European Commission's new cloud computing strategy, then we can expect to see a net gain of 2.5 million new European jobs, and an annual boost of €160 billion (around one per cent) to the region’s GDP by 2020. Without EU intervention, the GDP effect of cloud would account for an additional €88bn – with intervention it is expected to amount to €250b.
The strategy document, “Unleashing the potential of cloud computing in Europe” is designed to speed up and increase the use of cloud computing across the economy. There should also be extra cumulative impacts from 2015 to 2020 of €600bn by adopting the strategy.
Key actions outlined in the document include simplifying the amount of technical standards, and if necessary identifying replacement standards by 2013; support for EU-wide certification schemes for trustworthy cloud providers; the development of “safe and fair” contract terms for cloud computing contracts including SLAs; and the creation of a European Cloud Partnership with Member States and industry.
The latter initiative is designed to harness the public sector's buying power (claimed to be 20 per cent of all IT spending) to shape the European cloud market, boost the chances for European cloud providers to grow to achieve a competitive scale, and deliver cheaper and better eGovernment. According to European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes:
“Cloud computing is a game-changer for our economy. Without EU action, we will stay stuck in national fortresses and miss out on billions in economic gains. We must achieve critical mass and a single set of rules across Europe.
We must tackle the perceived risks of cloud computing head-on.”
The announcement follows the EC’s 2012 proposal to update the Data Protection rules and comes ahead of a European Strategy for Cyber Security to be proposed in the coming months. The eventual goal is to create a “Digital Single Market”. In an IDC survey commissioned by the EC, it was found that 80 per cent of organisations adopting cloud computing achieve cost savings of at least 10 to 20 per cent. Other benefits include enhanced mobile working (46 per cent), productivity gains (41 per cent), and new business opportunities (33 per cent). However, the absence of common standards and clear contracts is deterring potential users from adopting cloud solutions. EC Vice-President Viviane Reding added:
“Europe needs to think big. The cloud strategy will enhance trust in innovative computing solutions and boost a competitive digital single market where Europeans feel safe. That means a swift adoption of the new data protection framework which the Commission proposed earlier this year and the development of safe and fair contract terms and conditions.”
The Commission documents points out that this strategy does not foresee the building of a ‘European Super-Cloud’, i.e. a dedicated hardware infrastructure to provide generic cloud computing services to public sector users across Europe. It adds that many of the necessary steps to make Europe more cloud-friendly were already identified as actions in Europe’s Single Market Act, and that a quick move to adopt and implement these proposals will make a major contribution towards realising the economic gains of cloud computing.
The EC will also implement a series of additional actions (aggressively called “flanking actions” in the strategy document, so telcos be warned…) to support the three key actions. It says that other initiatives, such as on broadband access, roaming or open data also contribute to an environment conducive to faster cloud adoption, particularly for consumers and SMEs.
At the end of 2013, the Commission will report on the progress on the actions set out in its strategy document and present further policy and legislative proposals initiatives as needed:
“The Commission calls upon Member States to embrace the potential of cloud computing. Member States should develop public sector cloud use based on common approaches that raise performance and trust, while driving down costs. Active participation in the European Cloud Partnership and deployment of its results will be crucial.”
The Commission also calls upon industry to cooperate closely on the development and adoption of common standards and interoperability measures.
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