Month: September 2012

TechWeek Europe: European Commission Unveils Strategy To Unlock Cloud Computing Potential

Extract taken from TechWeek Europe

The European Commission today outlined plans on how to boost the cloud computing industry across the continent, as it looks to unlock some untapped economic potential.

The EC believes its plans could help bring about an extra €45 billion (£35.7 billion) of cloud computing spend by 2020, as well as 3.8 million jobs and a €957 billion boost to European GDP.

“Cloud computing is a game-changer for our economy. Without EU action, we will stay stuck in national fortresses and miss out on billions in economic gains,” said vice president of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes.

“We must achieve critical mass and a single set of rules across Europe. We must tackle the perceived risks of cloud computing head-on.”
vaso – Fotolia.comThree-pronged approach

Its strategy document includes three key areas where the body will take action, along with industry: standards, service level agreements and public sector adoption through a European Cloud Partnership.

The Commission is to task ETSI – the standards enforcer for Europe – with drawing up a list of “necessary standards” for security, interoperability, data portability and reversibility by 2013. These will be designed to counter vendor lock-in, potentially opening up avenues for VMs, data and applications to shift between clouds with greater ease.

By 2014, the EC also wants to have a detailed list of EU-wide voluntary certification schemes, which will help guide certain standards rather than make them mandatory. It wants to establish a set of “trustworthy cloud providers”.

The EC wants environmental issues associated with the cloud to be addressed too, with “harmonised metrics for the energy consumption, water consumption and carbon emissions of cloud services by 2014”.

On SLAs, model terms for cloud contracts will be established by 2013, whilst an “expert group” will be established to identify “safe and fair contract terms and conditions for consumers and small firms”. For security, the EC said it will be calling upon national data protection authorities to approve binding rules for cloud providers to follow.

The EC is also to set up a European Cloud Partnership (ECP) this year, which will look at how to make procurement consistent across member states. It will “bring together industry expertise and public sector users to work on common procurement requirements for cloud computing in an open and fully transparent way”.

Industry was generally receptive of the announcements, although some have expressed a desire to see the EC not over-legislate or enforce standards in the wrong areas.
Avoid being restrictive.

Ian Finlay, chief information officer at managed service provider Claranet, told TechWeekEurope there was little need to legislate on SLAs, forcing vendors into offering certain conditions or where they have data centres. Instead, the EC would be wise to educate users on what best practices were, so they can make informed choices, he said.

“The need to mandate is probably not there in my view,” Finlay said. “There is a need to inform and allow customers to choose, whether they want to go for low-cost commodity gear that they don’t know where it is, or to services where they know exactly where they are and what they are running on. Customers need to have choice there.”

It’s unclear whether the EC will enforce rules on cloud APIs or open standards. If the EC did look to get the industry working around one standard for building cloud management front ends, Finlay said he would be surprised if the body went for a commercially-owned API like Amazon’s, regardless of how popular it is. “That would be strange,” he added.

Yet some believe the cloud industry will form around Amazon’s methods, technologies and APIs. Others are betting on OpenStack, the operating system for clouds, which is being pushed by Rackspace, IBM and numerous others. The Commission’s efforts over the next couple of years could influence who wins out.

Meanwhile, some want the EC to provide greater clarification on the US Patriot Act, which some believe allows US law enforcement to go into cloud vendors’ data centres any time they wish. “Regarding the Patriot Act, we would welcome the EU clearing up current misinformation and misunderstandings regarding how it applies to EU organisations. For example, a common misconception is that a US company (or EU company with US parent) hosting a customer’s personal data in the EU would automatically mean that it is subject to the Patriot Act, which is not necessarily the case,” Lathe added.

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New European Cloud Strategy must tackle data location issue

Half of cloud users do not know who has jurisdiction over their data

The European Cloud Computing Strategy should encourage the use of in-country data centres and promote greater transparency over data location if it is to achieve its aim of protecting cloud users’ data, Claranet has urged.

The first draft of the strategy, which is being released by the European Commission tomorrow, will detail plans to address the regulatory framework of cloud computing and set pan-EU standards for data protection and retention, consumer protection and interoperability.

Michel Robert, UK Managing Director of managed services provider Claranet, argues that the report should strongly recommend that cloud providers give their customers a clear understanding of where their data is being hosted and, where possible, the choice of hosting their data in local facilities. Without clarity on data location it will become increasingly difficult to maintain and grow trust in the cloud, Robert says.

Data protection laws vary around the world, and even across European countries,” said Robert. “Businesses have the right to know where their sensitive and confidential information is being stored, and subsequently what protection and legislation this data is subject to. We expect and hope that the European Commission promote the benefits of, and encourage service providers to use in-country data centres for the territories in which they operate, and to make it transparent to their customers where their data is being stored.

“Data sovereignty is one of the biggest issues facing the cloud industry, and is one of the main concerns that users have with cloud services,” he continued. “Claranet polled 300 IT end-users about barriers to cloud adoption and found that almost half of them did not know which countries have legal jurisdiction over privacy control and data access. Moreover, two thirds said that data location was either important or extremely important when evaluating a cloud service provider.”

“Privacy laws are not standardised across Europe, and even some countries with quite strict legislation have anti-terrorism laws that can allow governments to access your data. End-users instinctively appreciate this, with 87 per cent of the respondents in our survey saying that they would be reassured if their data were stored in the UK.

“In this light, I believe that an important way to engender trust and transparency is for all customers to have the choice of where they store their data. Whether or not the European Commission explicitly recommends in-country data centres in tomorrow’s report, all providers should embrace them as an example of best practice, and to show commitment to promoting public trust in the cloud,” he concluded.

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4G is more relevant to business than consumers

Superfast mobile internet will enable affordable, high-performance back-up connectivity for business premises

As the UK stands on the cusp of the next revolution in mobile connectivity, Claranet is arguing that 4G will bring more immediate benefits to businesses than to consumers.

With a major mobile network recently announcing that it will begin rollout of 4G services this year and the latest mobile device releases boasting LTE / 4G connectivity, the media has concentrated almost exclusively on what superfast mobile internet will bring to consumers.

Claranet’s UK Managing Director, Michel Robert, says that patchy coverage and short battery life means that 4G may not prove the immediate boon that many are hoping for, and that 4G is instead more relevant to businesses in the short term.

“The UK has been lagging behind other major economies in rolling out 4G, so it is no surprise that there is a lot of excitement being generated about the initial rollout by EE, as well as the coming auction of the rest of the spectrum,” said Robert. “However, 4G on consumer mobile devices is a bit of a red herring – at least until battery life improves. As the New York Times recently pointed out, 4G absolutely kills mobile batteries: a combination of the increased processing power required for data-intensive communications, and the need to switch between 4G and 3G networks in areas of patchy coverage.

“Until this issue is resolved, 4G will be most relevant to businesses, not consumers,” he continued. “Businesses will be able to use a 4G enabled router to access cheap, fast and effective backup connectivity in the event of any disruption to their main network. Rather than invest in redundant physical networks, businesses will instead be able to connect via a superfast mobile connection.

“The implications for businesses could be immediate, by enabling them to switch seamlessly to a service delivered over the mobile spectrum at a fraction of the cost of a redundant cable connection, making it especially attractive to smaller businesses,” said Robert. “And because this would predominantly involve mains powered devices, the issue of battery life doesn’t arise.”

Claranet already provides a similar service over a high performance 3G network, aimed at businesses that depend on ‘always-on’ connectivity such as retailers. Claranet’s 3G service is based on private networking technology which keeps data within an organisation’s firewall, removing the need for virtual private network technology to encrypt data on the public internet, constraining bandwidth and data flows.

I’m looking forward as much as anyone to getting broadband-level speeds on my mobile devices,” said Robert. “In the short-term, I expect that 4G will be a curious novelty for consumers, enabling them to claim a bit of one-upmanship over their friends. However if service providers partner with mobile network operators, then the benefits for businesses will be real and immediate,” he concluded.

Find out more:

  • For more information about Claranet’s new 3G service, visit wireless services
  • For more information about Claranet’s managed network services, visit managed networks
  • For more information about Claranet’s hosting services, visit hosting services

VDC named best Cloud / SaaS Product at TechWorld Awards

Claranet’s Virtual Data Centre (VDC), the first truly integrated Infrastructure as a Service offering available to the European market, was named the Cloud / SaaS Product of the Year at last night’s annual TechWorld Awards.

Launched in late 2011, Claranet’s VDC enables users to self-provision their own infrastructure resources at the click-of-a-mouse and is designed to meet the demands of the modern enterprise and mid-sized businesses. Award organisers were particularly impressed by the service’s hypervisor agnosticism, which has been key to its appeal with analysts and customers alike.

Claranet believes that the hypervisor market will become increasingly competitive over the coming months and years, with more challengers to VMware’s current dominance. To address worries about ease of migration from one virtualised environment to another, VDC features a software orchestration layer, which makes the service hypervisor-agnostic.

Michel Robert, Claranet’s UK Managing Director, said: “This latest win is a significant achievement for Claranet, and comes as solid recognition of the skill and expertise of our product and technical teams. The TechWorld Awards are held in high esteem by the industry, for the pedigree of the judging panel, which consists of journalists, analysts and our industry peers..

“We needed a service that offered real differentiation from other players. VDC was designed in response to rigorous independent research commissioned by Claranet into the adoption and concerns held by IT decision makers about migrating to a cloud service. The research found that the top three barriers to adoption were the reliability of the service, data security / data sovereignty, and ease of migration.

“By listening to the market’s concerns, we decided to build a service that featured integrated networking, a hypervisor-agnostic platform, hosted exclusively in-country data centres – addressing the three key concerns amongst users, of reliability, data sovereignty and ease of migration.”

One of the VDC service’s key differentiators, and one that addresses the core issue of reliability, is that it is integrated with Claranet’s own MPLS network said Robert: “Users don’t need to touch the public internet when connecting to the service, making it significantly more secure than other services that lack network integration. This also ensures end-to-end accountability for the availability of the service as a whole, and a single point-of-contact for all service queries.

“It’s a very busy marketplace and a hotly contested category, so to be named best Cloud / SaaS Product of the Year is an enormous achievement and a huge vote of confidence in the service,” he concluded.

For more information on the Awards visit, and for further information on Claranet and its Virtual Data Centre service, visit

Find out more:

  • For more information about Claranet’s hosting portfolio, visit hosting services.
  • For more information about Claranet’s cloud services, visit cloud services.
  • For more information about Claranet’s award-winning Virtual Data Centre, visit Virtual Data Centre.