Europe taps Amazon and Telefonica for cloud push

Monday sees the first meeting of the steering board for the new European Cloud Partnership, which aims to eventually allow the public sector across the EU to pool its cloud procurement resources.
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Top EU officials will meet with companies such as Amazon and Telefonica on Monday to discuss ways to set up a single European market for cloud services.

The steering board meeting will be the first for the new European Cloud Partnership, which looks to take advantage of the public sector's buying power to influence cloud computing provision in the region. To do this, the group will try to come up with common cloud procurement standards.

Digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes said in January that the European Commission will put €10m (£8m) into the partnership, in the hope of eventually pooling resources between member states.

The European Cloud Partnership's steering committee is chaired by Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, and features members ranging from ousted HP chief executive Leo Apotheker to Amazon chief technology officer Werner Vogels.

Companies such as F-Secure, Accenture, SAP and ATOS are also represented, as are the governments of Norway, Spain, France, Austria, Poland and the Netherlands.

"I need this top-level input so that all of Europe can see the full benefits of cloud computing, and quickly," Kroes said in a statement ahead of the meeting on Monday afternoon. "President Ilves and all board members are going to give no-nonsense, action-oriented advice to get the European Cloud Partnership moving."

The meeting agenda includes deciding on the 2013-2014 goals for the partnership, which should include sorting out perceived barriers to cloud adoption in the European public sector.

Breaking down barriers

Meanwhile, on Friday the EU data protection supervisor, Peter Hustinx, gave an opinion in which he said cloud firms must avoid shirking their data protection responsibilities when providing services.

EU data protection rules are often seen as a significant issue. Echoing a call from the UK Information Commissioner's Office on Thursday, Hustinx said data protection is paramount when dealing with cloud services.

"Cloud computing can bring enormous benefits to individuals and organisations alike but it must also provide an adequate level of protection," Hustinx said. "Currently, many cloud customers, including members of social media, have little influence over the terms and conditions of the service offered by cloud providers."

"We must ensure that the cloud service providers do not avoid taking responsibility and that cloud customers are able to fulfil their data protection obligations. The complexity of cloud computing technology does not justify any lowering of data protection standards."

Hustinx was giving his opinion on the EU's cloud strategy, which was published in September. The strategy aims to harmonise cloud-related standards and legal frameworks around Europe.

The data protection supervisor said in his opinion that standard commercial terms and conditions for cloud services should come into play across the EU, as a way of giving more power to consumers of such services.

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