by Richard Sykes

European Commission strategy to address cloud concerns

Nov 20, 20124 mins
Cloud ComputingIT LeadershipIT Strategy

This year I have been the UK judge for EuroCloud’s European Awards. The entries presented a diversity of innovative cloud-based and cloud-exploiting ventures – real examples of effective practice in liberating the value opportunity of the cloud in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.

One winner was the not-for profit Hungarian Water Rescue Service, which has a mainly voluntary membership of over 500 active contributors. They commissioned a cloud-based unified communications platform designed to be easy to operate, secure, device-independent and, most importantly, boasting a low cost of ownership.

They estimate that it has saved tens of thousands of euros on travel costs and freed up over 1500 man-days annually in staff resources. “This way we have more time to focus on what we do best: saving lives on waters,” said a statement from the service.

Two years ago I finished my involvement with the G-Cloud project and wrote a brief detailing six key initiatives I judged vital to the future success of the venture. This summer I revisited that brief and I am concerned that what I read suggests slow progress. There have been real achievements – the G-Cloud ii framework is now launched. But I doubt that the government can point to savings measurable even in the low tens of millions of pounds. That is not what we believed the value opportunity of the cloud would be back in 2010.

Another winner was the French/American startup Cedexis, which provides services designed to optimise web performance across multiple datacentres, delivery networks and clouds so that local demand can be matched with service from the best-performing clouds available in real time.

For pan-european television channel Euronews, Cedex has delivered a 60 per cent reduction in page loading times, a 94 per cent cut in operating costs, elimination of the risk of single-vendor lock-in and dramatic improvements in search engine optimisation.

Now just imagine if G-Cloud were exploiting such a capability to optimise its use of a spread of competing datacentre facilities across the UK, in real time…

Closer to home, CentraStage, a winner in the EuroCloud UK Awards, and a finalist in the Europe-wide competition, is providing IT management technology to 2500 schools for the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) Trust. Through leveraging the scalability, cost-effectiveness and ‘pay-as-you-go’ of CentraStage’s cloud solution, the schools are able to benefit from a very affordable licencing model, with no requirement for significant up-front capital investment, and access a solution fully scalable to support the 250,000-plus devices in use.

Now in the place of 2500 schools imagine a bevy of London-based government departments with their own 250,000-plus devices to support.

This year’s Award Ceremony took place at the EuroCloud Congress in Luxembourg shortly after the late September publication of the European Commission’s Cloud Strategy proposals.

This strategy is no dictat from Brussels. It is a well-researched framework addressing the promise of the cloud in a Europe-wide context. It recognises that the real work starts now by identifying three broad agendas where action plans need to be developed: rationalising the current EU standards landscape while still delivering security, reliability and trust in the cloud; creating a framework of ‘safe and fair’ contract terms in Europe through an open stakeholder-driven process; and creating an European Public Sector Partnership to identify standard services that could be exploited across Europe for better economics of service delivery.

The current standards jungle is certainly a major restraint to effective cloud adoption and exploitation – a clear framework could, for one thing, tackle security concerns. Equally an accepted framework of ‘safe and fair’ contract terms would remove another very real block to effective cloud exploitation.

The EC emphasises the importance of the effective involvement of the SME sector (the award winners sketched above are all SMEs), and it will be vital that the processes put in place to tackle the three agendas are not kidnapped en route by the Public Administration Select Committee oligopoly.

We urgently need a broad, proactive involvement from across the industry, both vendor and user communities.