To Berlin, to attend the inaugural meeting of Cloud for Europe. A well attended affair at the Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems (FOKUS). Cloud for Europe is an initative of the European Cloud Partnership, in turn an initiative of the European Commission’s Cloud Strategy.
Well attended, I say, from across the length and breadth of Europe – except by the Brits! We were three in number. Myself (as chair of the UK Cloud Industry Forum), Kate Craig Wood (CEO of Memset, leading player in TechUK, and SME member of the Steering Board of the European Cloud Partnership) and (how did he get permission to attend?) Dave Cotterill, Deputy Director of IT Reform in the Cabinet Office.
Dave Cotterill’s presentation on the G-Cloud initiative was both excellent and lively. It conveyed a key message – that to develop the commerce of the cloud to the benefit of the public sector, the best approach is to tread lightly and agilely – simple initiatives, rapid learning immediately applied, clarity on key objectives. The contrast with statements of his fellow panelists (from Germany and from Spain) who articulated what are best described as grand projets (complex, expensive and slow to implement) was stark, and commented on very favourably by all who I met after he spoke – ‘the British have it right’.
One key objective of the G-Cloud procurement Frameworks is to bring the SME vendors centre stage. Kate Craig Wood addressed the G-Cloud initiative from this point of view and again won positive audience attention.
I focused particularly on the Cloud Industry Forum’s Code of Practice, arguing that such initiatives are a faster and more efffective way to develop and enshrine the (commercial and technical) behavioural norms that our young cloud industry requires. Shaping and negotiating new Standards takes years – shaping and implementing effective Codes of Practice takes months, and they can rapidly be developed and upgraded with experience.
I also threw into the debate this observation. The UK G-Cloud Procurement Frameworks are OJEU-compliant. What are the barriers to, say, Dublin exploiting the Framework to procure services? The EU is about open borders for trade, the cloud is very much a borderless phenomenon (except where Governments dictate otherwise) so that for the Irish to source via the G-Cloud Frameworks is simply international trade in services.
The Commission’s strategy document ‘Unleashing the Potential of Cloud Computing in Europe’ was published in October 2012. The English-language version of the EU Strategy document is one of the clearest explanations of what the cloud is about that I have yet seen – free of marketing hype, specific in its analysis of how important it is that the wider European economy exploits its potential.
As its contribution to implementing the Strategy, the European Commission launched three initiatives.
The first seeks to ‘cut through the jungle of technnical standards’. Our industry does tend to ‘grow like Topsy’ so little surprise that such a young construct as the cloud inherits such a jungle as its birthright!
The ambition to ’cut through’ has resonances with Alexander and the Gordian Knot! In practice what ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute - who were given the task) will launch on December 11 in Brussels is a coherent listing of, or guide to, the Jungle and a series of illustrative case studies that help scope the impact of the Jungle. I do not believe it conceals a dastardly plan to set in motion a drive to create and impose a single set of pan-European cloud standards – but where there are genuine commercial motivations to rationalise some corners of the Jungle (and there are), a coherent map is a good place to start!
Alongside the ETSI work, a Cloud Industry Group on Certification Schemes has been at work. It has positively taken on board the UK Cloud Industry Forum’s Code of Practice. A linked Cloud Select Industry Group on Code of Conduct has been at work since April 2013.
The second initiative is the ‘development of model ‘safe and fair’ contract terms and conditions’. A Cloud Computing Contract Group, launched in November 2013, is now at work, bringing in the Justice arm of the Commission. More on this in a future blog.
And the third initiative is Cloud for Europe, introduced above.
The three Brits at the Berlin meeting carried key messages about the best way forward for harnessing the power of the cloud to the benefit of the wider European economy. Encourage effective Codes of Practice rather than dream of a new generation of pan-European standards. Look to create open market places (such as the UK G-Cloud Frameworks) that can be rapidly evolved through actual experience. And encourage cross border trade in cloud services, challenging and removing the barriers to such trade as they are exposed in practice, step by step.