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Should Europe build its own cloud technology, or use existing developments?

paul.miller's picture
Submitted by paul.miller on Thu, 2012-04-19 18:04

The biggest public cloud is delivered by Amazon, an American company that delivers its cloud infrastructure through data centres in North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

The biggest open source clouds (Eucalyptus and OpenStack) were originally developed in the United States, and US contributors continue to dominate the code contributions.

But Europe does have plenty of home-grown cloud solutions.

In a post on my blog today I talk about some of these local companies, and ask whether or not we'll see more in the future. Will new cloud companies continue to develop their own cloud technology, or will they ride on the back of existing open source efforts such as OpenStack and Eucalyptus? Will they resell commercial solutions from companies like VMware and Microsoft, or write their own from scratch?

http://cloudofdata.com/2012/04/of-little-clouds-and-big-clouds-local-clo...

Europe's Digital Agenda should care about Europe and Europe's citizens being well placed to maximise the benefits offered by the cloud. Europe's Digital Agenda should care deeply about European companies being able to monetise that cloud, to grow, and to deliver value.

But should Europe's Digital Agenda care whether Europe's clouds are 'Made In Europe', or not?

Is a European company running an OpenStack cloud 'better' than an American company running an OpenStack cloud in a European data centre?
Is a European company running a home-grown cloud 'better' than a European company running an imported cloud?

Do we care? Should we care? Once we get past FUD, and edge cases where jurisdiction and sovereignty really do matter, is it something we should be concerned with at a European level?

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Comments

aserocarmela's picture
Submitted by aserocarmela on Thu, 2012-04-19 18:16

Thanks a lot for your post, Paul.
It raises very interesting and challenging questions. Looking forward for other forum participants' comments on them.

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jurgenv's picture
Submitted by jurgenv on Fri, 2012-04-20 08:40

Great subject. We should not think in terms of borders, but in terms of involvement. Contribution, participation and innovation are not limited by borders (due to the web and the cloud itself!)

There is no substitute for experience. If we leave technological developments to others and simply use it, Europeans will not create the know-how and experience that represents (a) jobs and (b) the grounds for the next unforeseen innovation. This would obviously be bad.

Regardless of the physical location of cloud services and the origin of their source code, the message should be that we need to stay involved in all layers (from technology to business and government) of the cloud development. Conversely, Europe-based initiatives should actively invite participation from the Americas, Asia and Afrika as well.

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miguel.gonzalez-sancho-bodero's picture
Submitted by miguel.gonzalez... on Fri, 2012-04-20 22:50

European cloud industrial policy? Well, insofar as the cloud is set to become a strategic asset, it makes indeed all sense to raise this question. I do see national cloud strategies in certain countries. Commissioner Kroes has said in her speeches that she wants to promote a European 'cloud active' approach, which will materialise in the upcoming European cloud strategy. I guess what we want to avoid is too much fragmentation in European regarding cloud efforts from public authorities.

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Engberg's picture
Submitted by Engberg on Sun, 2012-05-27 16:15

Neelie Kroes face a very critical choice which she clearly hasn't realised.

Destructive Cloud Active = Cloud + eIdentification

Constructive Cloud Active = Cloud + Citizen
Empowerment (as in identity virtualisation so citizen s CANNOT be identified when interacting with cloud)

It is that simple even though the technologies involved are not.

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michele's picture
Submitted by michele on Mon, 2012-04-23 23:03

Not to be picky but isnt Cloud Sigma a Swiss company?
Technically, this makes it an extra-EU company. I am just saying that for the ones who care for territoriality :)

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paul.miller's picture
Submitted by paul.miller on Tue, 2012-04-24 01:05

Not picky at all; perfectly accurate. But I wasn't asked for 'EU clouds.' I was asked for 'European clouds,' and Switzerland is definitely in the continent of Europe.

You are, however, correct to remind us all of the difficult issue of territoriality...

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hsanjuan's picture
Submitted by hsanjuan on Wed, 2012-04-25 13:07

Talking about European-made clouds, OpenNebula is one solution that at least deserves mention.

It has successfully contributed to several cloud-related EU-funded projects already and it is a mature open-source solution widely used already in industry and research institutions.

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gater's picture
Submitted by gater on Wed, 2012-05-02 15:12

Judging by the discussions at the Research in Future Cloud Computing event in Brussels today (http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/ssai/), there are still significant barriers to the uptake of clouds, particularly by small SMEs and individual users, based on concerns about where data is actually located.

So the question of whether Europe builds its own cloud technologies, or uses existing developments is relevant, if that influences where the data is stored. The concern for many is still not whether it is 'made in Europe' but whether it is ‘stored in Europe’. Who has access to my data and whose laws govern this?

It’s interesting to see that there are now new European-wide initiatives looking at helping move Europe from being ‘cloud ready’ to ‘cloud active’ in a practical way. The European Grid Infrastructure (www.egi.eu) already provides a federated infrastructure of commodity computing for Europe, and is now moving towards applying that experience to bringing together isolated private clouds (http://gridtalk-project.blogspot.com/2012/03/riding-hype-curve-and-shoot...). Standards are what help to underpin this sort of work – we heard today at the meeting that we need expandable standards that provide frameworks for development… but not straight jackets.

Other projects in this area include StatusLab, which is developing a complete open-source cloud distribution that allows grid and non-grid centres to offer and exploit an ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ cloud. Venus-C is a joint co-operation of computing service providers and scientific user communities working to provide a cloud infrastructure for science and SMEs in Europe, with 15 pilot projects in the areas of architecture, biology, healthcare and many others. And of course, Helix-Nebula brings together a raft of cloud providers to help build a science cloud for Europe, in collaboration with large European labs CERN, ESA and EMBL.

So I think there is plenty of work going on in Europe to create home grown solutions, as @jurgenv has said – showing evidence of contribution, participation and involvement. But there is still work to be done on convincing users that their data is secure and protected, and this may prove to be tougher than building the technology itself.

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Engberg's picture
Submitted by Engberg on Sun, 2012-05-27 16:18

Data location is not relevant - Citizen Identity are.

If citiens are not identified in cloud, location dont matter as citizens retain control. If citizens are identified, no regulation or security can protect from systemic abuse through unsecure cloud.

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rebentisch's picture
Submitted by rebentisch on Fri, 2012-05-25 12:11

Not "made in Europe" but "governed by our laws". A data center in Switzerland does not help in that respect.

Cloud is a matter of scaling services, not technology innovation per se. It's not rocket science, and you are right to point out how generic the technology is. Clouds emerged when oversized data centers were shared with external parties as a result of the virtualisation revolution dividend. The underlying technology is very generic and global, still European players also should participate in their development.

Having cloud servers in third nations makes it possible for authorities in these nations to get legal and extralegal access and there are no sanctions against business/industrial espionage because the laws of your jurisdiction do not apply. When your service is located in the Cloud data center located in the Republic of Bananas, you have to trust the place and its laws. Certainly government services cannot be outsourced to foreign jurisdictions.

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Michal007's picture
Submitted by Michal007 on Tue, 2012-05-29 12:30

I have not been able to find such kind of information throughout the search engines and internet. It's been fabulously informative to read your blog and i am going to suggest it to another fellow as well.

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eliasall's picture
Submitted by eliasall on Mon, 2012-06-04 14:03

A couple of thoughts:

1. An open cloud initiative for Europe ensures that businesses do not have to rely on any type of proprietary formats and platforms.

2. Focus should be paid on creating a strong ecosystem for European businesses so that all cloud initiatives can be fully utilized by businesses of any size. Awareness is key in cloud adoption, therefore creating demand for cloud services will lay the foundation for cloud service providers.

3. "EU built?" Sounds great but I think we are re-inventing the wheel here. We should focus on keeping it OPEN; rely on and contribute to open standards.

4. Location does count; especially for regulated industries. EU should step up and harmonize legal frameworks for inter-continental data transmissions.

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M_Lengert's picture
Submitted by M_Lengert on Wed, 2012-06-06 11:18

I fully concur with these thoughts. On #3, "EU built" should mean build with EU industry that are largely lagging behind, and, I agree, OPEN to avoid vendor lock-in.

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Engberg's picture
Submitted by Engberg on Thu, 2012-06-14 08:19

The most vital element is key control

If data are encrypted with keys outside cloud or data in cloud cannnot be referred to realworld citizens, devices or organisations, then data in cloud can be resonably safe - otherwise no regulation or technolgy can protect them.

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aserocarmela's picture
Submitted by aserocarmela on Mon, 2012-06-11 15:30

Thanks to all for your interesting comment and suggestions. Elias, 'strong ecosystem for European businesses' well describe one of the objectives of EU action in the cloud area. Point #4 is particularly important from a policy perspective. Also in view of the next World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT) in December 2012 (http://www.itu.int/en/wcit-12/Pages/default.aspx) since this conference will consider a review of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITRs), which define the general principles for the provision and operation of international telecommunications. So, this is a key year for internet governance at global level and it is important that EU develop and defend a clear vision on these aspects.

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