SAN FRANCISCO--Cloud computing plays an integral role in the new digital age but trust and security needs to be consistently instilled for people to be comfortable in such an environment, noted a senior European Commission (EC) official.
Neelie Kroes, vice president of digital agenda at the EC, said there are tangible benefits to having both public and private sectors across Europe embrace cloud computing, of which the primary one is "great cost savings". Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are among the beneficiaries, she added during the Digital Agenda Panel held Wednesday as part of Salesforce.com's Dreamforce 2011.
That said, she noted that there needs to be trust and security in the system for the technology to flourish and add value to stakeholders. And because European countries are mostly democracies, the process "takes time" and will need to overcome cultural barriers, she added.
Kroes had earlier stated her case for the EC to take the lead in driving cloud computing adoption in the region. In a speech made on Jan. 27 this year, she said: "We are looking at a potentially vast new service industry [in cloud computing]. There are great opportunities for strong European telecoms and high-tech SMBs.
"And as cloud users, including public sector organizations, look for better value-for-money, we can expect productivity gains across Europe's economy as a whole."
Kroes added:"A clear role of governments is also to ensure that European achievements, such as effective data protection and the European Union's single market, do not clash with cloud computing."
With regard to data portability, she pointed out during the panel discussion that it's not simply about where the location is stored and that companies observe the necessary compliance rules. It is also important for cloud computing users to consider the vendors that provide such services and whether their technologies are secure and reliable enough, Kroes urged.
Better value for money
On the other hand, Vivek Kundra, fellow at Harvard University and former U.S. CIO, urged governments not to use security and privacy as excuses to dismiss cloud computing altogether.
Speaking at the same panel discussion, he pointed out that the U.S. government is already outsourcing about 4,700 IT systems to external vendors such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, which indicates its level of comfort in moving sensitive data out from its internal IT environment.
"There are times when security and privacy are erected as barriers but these claims are often unfounded considerations," Kundra said.
The first CIO of the U.S. government had introduced a "Cloud First" policy in February this year, and in his paper, Kundra stated that the federal government's IT environment at that time was characterized by "low asset utilization, fragmented demand for resources, duplicative systems, environments which are difficult to manage and have long procurement lead times".
He identified cloud computing as a possible solution to some of the inefficient allocation of resources. Elaborating, he pointed out that US$20 billion of the government's US$80 billion IT budget is a "potential target for migration to cloud computing solutions".
Kevin Kwang of ZDNet Asia reported from Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, USA.