Pushing cloud across Europe's borders

EuroCloud's awards contest and a legal guide could help lower some of the barriers facing cloud providers in Europe, raising visibility for success stories while documenting the legal quirks of European data rules.

I've written often about the extra obstacles facing cloud providers in Europe. So it's good to be able to write about two initiatives that could help lower those barriers. One of them aims to dispel some of the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that surrounds the law on data in Europe as it affects cloud providers. The other is an awards program that aims to publicize the work of successful cloud providers and their customers. The driving force behind both of them is EuroCloud, the European cloud industry association set up 18 months ago, which I serve as vice-president in Europe and as chair of the UK group [these are unpaid roles, see disclosure].

Lack of clarity and consistency over European data privacy laws have stirred up FUD among cloud computing customers, providers and naysayers alike. One of the root causes seems to be a lack of any single, authoritative reference that sets out what the laws actually are in each national jurisdiction. As part of an initiative designed to sweep away much of confusion, EuroCloud UK this Wednesday will launch its local edition of the EuroCloud Guidance to Cloud Computing: Law, Data Protection & Compliance.

The UK guide will be a sibling to the already-published guide to German law produced by EuroCloud Deutschland, and similar volumes will be appearing in other EuroCloud countries over the coming months. The aim is to create the continent's first authoritative body of work that describes the regulatory framework for cloud computing in each European country. At last, it will be possible to see what the requirements are and to what extent they differ between countries.

Wednesday's meeting will be the first opportunity to hear about the contents of the UK guide from Roger Bickerstaff of London-based international law firm Bird & Bird, who has drafted the UK document in collaboration with EuroCloud. The published guide will be generally available next month. It is hoped that further versions from other countries will be out by the time the annual EuroCloud Congress takes place in Luxembourg at the end of June.

Just as important as dispelling the FUD around cloud computing is to publicize its success stories. With that in mind, around a dozen countries across Europe have been holding EuroCloud Awards to recognize innovation and best practice by European cloud providers and their customers. In the run-up to revealing the full list of winners at the EuroCloud Congress in June, each country is following its own timetable. France named its winners in March, Germany will do so later this week. In the UK, nominations remain open until the end of this month. Once each country has made its awards, the winners will go forward into a Europe-wide contest to find the European champions in each category, the results of which will be known later in the year.

At the same time as all this is going on, EuroCloud is a lead participant in the consultation exercise currently being run by the European Commission on cloud computing and how it fits with Europe's wider Digital Agenda. By highlighting the business benefits of cloud computing with the Awards program, EuroCloud will be able to show the positive results that can be achieved, and thus the importance of easing some of the legal obstacles standing in the way of faster progress.