Today EuroCloud, a new industry organization that aims to promote cloud and SaaS, launches in seven European countries. I'm involved in the initiative, having agreed to act as UK co-ordinator for the launch. Other groups are launching in France, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain, and the launch has the backing of almost thirty SaaS and cloud vendors, ranging from giants like Amazon, Salesforce.com, Microsoft and McAfee to up-and-coming local players including Huddle, INES, Mimecast, NTRGlobal and Twinfield. Full details are on the website and in the launch press release (PDF). Initial blog coverage (in addition to this post) has been by Dennis Howlett, David Terrar and Ben Kepes, and there's developing multi-language news coverage across Europe.
I've written in the past about the difficulties European SaaS vendors face in expanding across borders and getting the visibility they deserve. There are a huge number of highly successful SaaS vendors in Europe, who are thriving in spite of the challenges of expanding across borders into different languages, cultures and business jurisdictions. The lack of established European-wide tech industry networks and media leaves them doubly sidelined — unable to command visibility against better-known US-based peers with the global tech media, yet sidelined by local tech media in their own countries because SaaS isn't considered part of the mainstream software business.
EuroCloud changes that by creating a 'go-to' destination across Europe where everyone will be able to see, just by scanning the membership list, the breadth and depth of indigenous SaaS and cloud players. Today EuroCloud issues its call for membership so the names aren't there yet (apart from the 70 members of the pre-existing EuroCloud France) — however I know from the responses I can already see coming in to just the UK group how quickly that's going to change. Membership is open to any SaaS or cloud ecosystem participant, and those who want to take an active role in taking EuroCloud forward have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor and help drive its momentum.
Meanwhile, we already have 29 companies listed as 'European Launch Partners', all of them organizations with a presence in at least two European countries. Some of my US fellow-bloggers and writers may say, 'But I've never heard of most of these companies.' Well my friends, that's partly because some of you are too ready to dismiss what's going on without bothering to look, but we in Europe also bear some of the responsibility for not promoting ourselves with a loud enough voice. EuroCloud will give the European industry that voice.
Even more important than all of this, though, is the role that EuroCloud can play in shaping the future of cloud services in Europe:
- Firstly, by acting as a facilitator of partnerships and ecosystems between cloud and SaaS providers across Europe — making it easy, for the first time, for providers to find each other from Spain to Poland and from Norway to Bulgaria.
- Secondly, by speaking with a collective voice that can influence lawmakers and administrators at the European Union, which now originates more than half the laws governing business in member countries, and which affects cloud providers across diverse topics ranging from broadband access to privacy regulation and software patents.
- Finally, by helping business decision makers in Europe understand how best to take advantage of cloud and SaaS to ensure they stay competitive in the connected Web era.
That last point I know is a little contentious. Some, including fellow ZDNet blogger Dennis Howlett, have wondered how such a broad group can articulate a common vision. I'll be the first to acknowledge that we might not all see eye-to-eye in our assessment of what cloud computing is and where it's going. But I think that may usefully force us to keep our debates about the underlying technology between ourselves, and focus on the top-level business benefits of cloud services in our messaging to the outside world.