Cloud computing use is growing, but so is regulation

The majority of European businesses have adopted cloud for IT infrastructure but its mostly being deployed on US cloud technologies.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Credit: Getty Images/Charday Penn

European firms are reaching a new scale of public cloud usage, with 92% of companies in the UK, France and Germany saying they have adopted cloud computing, with 78% reporting they use a hybrid cloud, and 75% using multiple public clouds mostly on US-made technology, according to research by analyst firm Forrester. 

"After a slow start, Europeans now recognize cloud for its support for new apps and also as affordable compute and storage for existing ones," it said.

While European businesses have undergone a major shift to cloud in pursuit of speed, scalability and innovation, the top concerns over using public cloud were security and privacy around data protection and disaster recovery (32%), and application security and protection (31%). Lesser concerns were lack of internal governance over public cloud storage (26%), lack of performance (23%), and compliance (21%). 

SEE: What is cloud computing? Everything you need to know about the cloud explained

Forrester, in its State of Cloud in Europe 2022 report, said on average, infrastructure decision makers at European enterprises claim 41% of their total application portfolio is already in the public cloud, while 58% anticipate that their firm will migrate over the next two years.  

Over half (56%) of people who buy IT infrastructure cite modernization as their top priority, according to Forrester.   

But in the absence of any European hyperscale cloud provider, Forrester notes that regulation is a big issue for European cloud markets. 

The French-German initiative GAIA-X hasn't made a huge impact since its launch in 2020. It's hoped it can serve as a vehicle to reduce Europe's dependence on non-EU technology. GAIA-X is headed up by Germany's T-Systems and France's OVHcloud.

In November, French GAIA-X founding member Scalaway quit the initiative due to it "accepting all the non-European dominating cloud service providers without any limitation." Amazon Web Services and Microsoft joined GAIA-X in 2020.    

Scaleway chief Yann Lechelle cited research from Synergy Research Group that showed European cloud providers' share of the European market fell from 27% to below 16% between 2017 and 2021.

That decline in share came as the European market for public cloud grew fourfold. It was worth €2bn a quarter in Q1 2017 and had grown to €7.3bn in the second quarter of 2021.

But the main beneficiaries of this growth were Amazon, Microsoft and Google, which invested billions in scaling out and expanding cloud infrastructure in Europe. 

John Dinsdale, a chief analyst at Synergy Research Group, said European cloud providers could continue to grow by focusing on use cases that have stricter data sovereignty and privacy requirements.

The biggest European cloud provider last year was Deutsche Telekom and it only had a 2% share of the European market, followed by OVHcloud, SAP, Orange and then national and regional players. Others noted by Forrester include Cleura, Swisscom, and T-Systems.

"There is anxiety across Europe," writes Jeffrey Rajamani, a senior analyst at Forrester. "Fears are mounting (rightfully so) that the continent's digital future will essentially be controlled by players from outside the region. As a result, the European Union and local governments are setting rules, mandates, and standards on how data can (and cannot) traverse around the world."

Rajamani said this is not just a European development: over 50 countries are accelerating efforts to control the data flows with the objective of gaining digital sovereignty, which requires that data is handled in accordance with privacy and other standards set by the respective regulatory bodies.

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