Google has responded to the request by the European Commission for ideas to create and maintain cloud services in Europe. Guy Daniels reports.
Back in May, the EC announced it was seeking views on how best to exploit cloud computing in Europe. Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda, said that the Commission members were “excited” about the potential benefits of cloud computing to cut costs, improve services and open up new business opportunities, but that:
“We need a well-defined cloud computing strategy to ensure that we make the best use of this potential. The input we are requesting from all interested parties is important to get it right.”
She later added to these comments, declaring that: “The goal is to make Europe not just cloud-friendly but also cloud-active.”
In a 14-page document made public this week, Marco Pancini, Google’s Senior Policy Counsel for Europe, explains his company’s views and addresses the specific questions asked by the Commission. He says that the current regulatory framework in Europe can have a detrimental impact on customers, who must evaluate what he says are potentially inconsistent national laws. His, and therefore Google’s, conclusion is that this may delay or prevent adoption of cloud computing services.
He gives three examples. The first is the “diverse implementation” of Directive 95/46 (the so-called Data Protection directive), meaning that multinational organisations are only able to adopt cloud solutions once they have conducted an analysis of the country-specific implementation of Directive 95/46. As Pancini points out:
“Several EU based companies have explored or even implemented technical controls that prevent their employees from accessing their cloud based services (eg.
email) from outside the EU, or ensured that their network connection to the cloud service always flows through the EU.”
His second example is the “unjustified uncertainty” about international transfer instruments – for example, do safe harbour certified cloud services represent the guarantees required by the international transfer provisions under EU law? Maybe, maybe not, it depends on your legal interpretation at this stage.
And thirdly, what he says is “confusion due to potential conflicts of law and jurisdiction” – for which Pancini gives an example:
“A potential customer was informed by its ISO27001 [security management] auditor that they would lose their ISO27001 accreditation if they moved their email to a cloud provider based in the US, on the grounds that the US Government could then have access to their data.”
Google is also advocating for open standards and interoperability, and argues that the EU should play a stronger role in the technical standardisation of APIs and data formats to enhance interoperability and competition between cloud providers. Warming to his theme of the ‘interoperable cloud’ (the de facto next-generation internet?), Pancini says:
“Cloud providers should be to be able to run applications in more than one cloud at once and allow for direct interaction among the clouds. Ensuring that data can be imported and exported into different Internet services in an open, interoperable format should be a top priority for every single cloud provider.”
Despite a huge list of suggestions, complaints and observations, Pancini says that Google fully supports the European Commission’s efforts. He believes that cloud computing is gaining traction in Europe and elsewhere, saving users money and creating jobs. To highlight this point, he cites a recent study from Professor Federico Etro of the University of Venice, which suggests that cloud computing in the European Union will contribute between 0.1 and 0.4 per cent of GDP and could create a million jobs by 2016, depending on the speed of adoption.
Adoption of cloud computing by the public sector could result in cost savings of between 10 and 40 per cent. Professor Etro highlights the UK as being the leading country in migrating public sector IT to the web, in order to reduce its £16bn IT budget. But it will also provide opportunities for small and medium businesses:
“Cloud platforms and new data centers are creating a new level of infrastructures that global developers can exploit, especially SMEs that are so common in Europe. This will open new investment and business opportunities, currently blocked by the need for massive upfront investments. This mechanism is going to be crucial in Europe because of the large presence of SMEs and of the higher risk aversion of the entrepreneurs compared to their American counterparts. Reduction of the fixed costs may reduce the risk of failure and promote entry even more.”
Commenting on his Google blog, Pancini adds that:
“At the end of the day, the European Commission has a great opportunity to come up with a proposal that modernizes the EU legislative framework and especially the EU data protection regime. The cloud offers the possibility to truly leverage the digital single market to the benefit of all Europeans, both users and providers, and we at Google hope our proposals will help the Commission take the right steps going forward.”
please sign in to rate this article