Blog post

Is the way to the European Cloud paved mainly with good intentions?

By Gregor Petri | October 26, 2012 | 1 Comment

At the end of last month the EU released its plans for “Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe”. But although the document (s) – just like EU commissioner Kroes in this video – do a good job describing in non-technical terms what cloud is and why Europe should care about having a competitive cloud position,  it kind of stops there.

Even though it defines three key actions – around Standards, Terms and Public Sector taking  a lead role – most described actions  consist of softer items such as  “promoting trust by coordinating with stakeholders”, “identifying best practices”, ”promoting partnerships” and “investigating how to make  use of other available instruments”. Now of course European cloud computing can benefit from funding reserved for other EU initiatives such as the Connecting Europe Facility and from side initiatives such as  the “Opinion on Cloud Computing” published by the Article 29 working party that gives privacy-related contracting guidance, but in general the recent published plan seems to be more about what could and should be, than about what is or will be.

Meanwhile, both regular and social media seem to be increasingly negative regarding the progress that Europe is making. With the North American continent clearly being the biggest cloud geo and ASIAPAC – also thanks to its many emerging economies – claiming the position of  fastest growing cloud geo, it only leaves less desirable labels – such as slowest or  most fragmented  – for describing the state of cloud activities in Europe.

Continuing to look at why things are harder and slower in Europe will just further reinforce negative sentiments, better to focus on European examples that are showing success. And in “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard”  the brothers Dan and Chip Heath offer an engaging recipe for doing just that. In their book they describe how by  identifying  “Bright Spots” (small pockets of positive exceptions) potential future success scenarios can be  discovered. Next, they encourage promoting very specific actions instead of giving broad directions. For example: Instead of asking people to eat healthier (too vague, too hard), they suggest healthcare activists promote a specific action such as “buying skimmed  instead of full fat milk” (simpler, easier, more actionable, more effective).

So in Europe, instead of pushing cloud as a concept (too vague, too hard), why not focus on identifying a few very specific and very simple scenarios including their specific benefits. Next Europe can concentrate on removing any (legal, fiscal, economic, cultural) barriers to these specific scenarios and promote these few clearly and broadly. And in doing so best to follow the Heath brothers advice to promote this both on a rational and on an emotional level (or as the brothers put it eloquently: both “Direct the Rider and Motivate the Elephant” ).

PS What potential European cloud Bright Spots would you suggest (using the comment field below)?

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1 Comment

  • Frank says:

    There are many options available for the EU (but bright spots are still a little thin on the ground) Here are a few ideas for promoting the creation of more bright spots:

    1) encourage EU companies to move towards cloud centers by emphasizing the positive side, such as reduced energy consumption, and lower Capex and Opex costs. However, in the EU “correct” forms of encouragement usually take the form of subsidies or negative taxation. For example, I can picture EU governments trying to give companies that reduce data center energy consumption some kind of “green” benefit like lower taxes or perhaps by subsidizing lower energy prices for certified “green” cloud centers. Likewise, investment grants and financing that encourage new companies to move their DCs to private or public cloud centers could encourage startups to look at cloud services first (if market forces have not already done so). .

    2) encourage cloud service companies to enter and grow in the European market by promoting their own EU level government cloud projects and development. Teach by example but make sure that public money is not wasted on “pie-in the sky” projects. Projects should only be undertaken after the savings and benefits have been clearly demonstrated and accepted by budget-makers and tax payers.

    3) Best of all, invest in high capacity networks and efficient infrastructure and continue to roll out fiber-optic connections to link the various regions and cities. Keeping bandwidth costs affordable for large and small companies will favor the development of a healthy cloud ecosystem.

    4) Promote training and informational endeavors that educate IT professionals, consumers and businesses about the goodness of the cloud. Stop looking at cloud business as just a potential source of revenue and more as a source of job creation and business expansion.

    In reality, I have limited faith in how much impact EU government initiatives can influence market behavior and even less faith in these initiatives being guided by sound technical advice. The market will most likely lead the way and then EU regulators will simply follow.