Europe is moving towards a Digital Single Market for cloud to help promote the uptake of cloud computing in the region and to reduce its complexities.
The EU Digital Single Market is a regulatory framework that will help the region remove national barriers to online transactions. It builds on the concept of the common market, intended to eliminate trade barriers between member states.
“Cloud, by nature, is a cross-border technology,” Francisco Medeiros, deputy head of unit for cloud computing at the European Commission, told Computer Weekly.
“Having a Digital Single Market for cloud computing in Europe is extremely important to give cloud users the assurance about security and data protection,” said Medeiros, speaking at Enterprise Cloud Forum on the first day of the annual Datacentres Europe 2014 event.
Building trust in the cloud
Loss of trust because of issues such as the Prism revelations results in fragmentation of the cloud market into separate national market segments, according to the European Commission.
This is where the regulatory framework will be useful because it will ensure that the cloud contract terms and conditions are consistent so as to increase consumer trust and thus encourage a wider take-up of cloud computing services.
Late last year, European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes said that in the post-Prism era, Europe should build on its “relatively high standards” of data protection, security, interoperability and transparency of cloud services to become the world’s trusted cloud region.
“It will also help avoid restriction of data flows in Europe, so users can use cloud services without data protection concerns,” Medeiros added.
The single market for cloud is part of the Commission’s European Cloud Strategy. The EC has set up high-level representatives of the IT and telecoms industry and decision-makers from governmental IT policy-making to develop the framework.
Strengthening Europe's cloud position
The Digital Single Market is also important to help Europe compete with North American cloud providers effectively.
At the Datacentre Europe 2014 conference, Tobias Hollwarth, a board member of EuroCloud Europe, said the EU is lagging behind the US in cloud computing.
“We need to do something soon because if all manufacturing takes place in Asia and all IT services are led by the US, what happens to Europe? Europe cannot be left behind,” he said.
“Lack of standardisation is a big problem in the cloud segment,” Hollwarth added.
A Digital Single Market will enable better public procurement of cloud services in Europe, based on common definitions of requirements and possibly eventually going as far as joint procurement across borders, Medeiros said.
Pooling public requirements could bring higher efficiency, and common sectoral requirements (e-health, social care, assisted living, e-government services, for example) would reduce costs and enable interoperability, the Commission anticipates.
The private sector would also benefit from higher quality services, more competition, rapid standardisation and better interoperability and market opportunities for high-tech SMEs, according to Medeiros.
“There is a concern that Europe is getting way behind the US in cloud computing,” said Steve Wallage, managing director of BroadGroup Consulting, the host of the Datacentres Europe conference. “A Digital Single Market for cloud in Europe will be beneficial to address this concern.”
Recognising cloud's potential
The idea of creating a single cloud market for Europe began in 2012 when the Commission published a document – Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe – proposing as key actions including cutting through the jungle of standards, guaranteeing safe and fair contract terms and conditions, and establishing a European cloud partnership to drive innovation and growth from the public sector.
“We are making progress every day towards establishing the Digital Single Market in Europe for cloud,” said Medeiros.
The Commission is “strongly against a ‘Fortress Europe’ approach to cloud computing,” Kroes said earlier while outlining the single market strategy. “Separate initiatives or a Fortress Europe approach is not going to work,” she warned.