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SPEECH/11/199

Neelie Kroes

Vice-President of the European Commission
responsible for Digital Agenda

European Cloud Computing Strategy needs to aim high

Opening of Microsoft Centre on Cloud Computing and Interoperability

Brussels, 22 March 2011

We stand at the edge of a computing era of unprecedented flexibility and economies of scale. That is the promise of the cloud: the chance to turn IT provision into a real utility. And what a big promise that is, given the track record of computing in delivering better and better value.

While the opportunities are clear, there is much to be done to ensure that we will take them up and make the best use of them. As with the exploitation of any strategic resource, cloud computing too requires a strategy.

It is going to take partnership between industry and government, and European leadership, to ensure that Europe is not merely open or just friendly to cloud providers, but that there is a European effort to actively create the best environment for all parties.

For all those reasons I am really pleased to join you today. Through this centre Microsoft is showcasing its commitment not only to innovation, but to Europe and to partnership. SMEs and the public sector stand to gain a lot from the innovations on display and under development here.

What are our next challenges?

As the World Economic Forum has noted, 90 percent of suppliers and users of cloud services thinks risk to privacy are a “very serious” impediment to wide adoption of cloud computing. Microsoft has acknowledged this through “security by design” and “privacy by design” work, building on the insight that “the bottom line is: a customer needs to control his own data.”

So we have the evidence and interested partners. Now it is critical that governments and the Commission build on the fact that Europe has been a leader in data protection since 1995 (with the Data Protection Directive), and turn our data protection regime into a competitive advantage in future markets for cloud services.

You will also know that interoperability is an issue I take very, very seriously. I can say with a great deal of pleasure that I feel that Microsoft is really making a difference on this issue now, in many areas. In my view, Microsoft’s work as a catalyst in Commission-funded research projects has been important in pushing interoperability higher up on the cloud computing agenda, and into the daily work of our scientific community.

This matters because, to offer a true utility in a truly competitive digital single market, users must be able to change their cloud provider easily. It must be as fast and easy as changing one’s internet or mobile phone provider has become in many places. And we should never allow the sort of legal or technical barriers that have plagued single market efforts in sectors like electricity. In other words: interoperability is essential for the cloud to be fair, open and competitive.

International standardisation efforts will also have a huge impact on cloud computing. Open specifications are a key in creating competitive and flourishing markets that deliver what customers need. Europe can play a big role here – building on, for example, the SIENA initiative and its development of a "standardisation roadmap for clouds and grids for e-Science and beyond". I count here on the further support and commitment of Microsoft and all the other participants.

In that context, in the area of public services, the European Commission published the Communication “Towards interoperability for European public services” in December 2010. This aims to establish a common approach for Member States' public administrations, to help citizens and businesses to profit fully from the EU’s digital single market. The European Interoperability Framework (EIF) will help the delivery of European public services by fostering cross-border interoperability, building on and tying together national frameworks. If we find solutions for requirements, cloud computing can become a vehicle for governments to deliver services to citizens more efficiently and at lower cost.

To be sure, for all our European efforts, we recognise that the Holy Grail is actually finding global solutions, working through bodies like the G20 and others.

I look forward to the day when the cloud puts many more thousands of our SMEs on the European and world stage. When the cloud makes the single market real for them, to its full extent. I look forward to the day when the cloud helps governments stay “in the black.” And I cannot wait to show off the green implications of this work, as we struggle to take better care of our fragile planet.

So what are we doing, concretely?

For example, I plan to engage major cloud users to look at the opportunities for a coordinated move on standardisation to support interoperability and portability of data. We will also convene public actors active in the area of cloud computing. Here the goal will be to put a stop to a fragmentation of efforts.

We are also currently giving the final touches to the planning of a consultation process that is designed to give us input for the ongoing development of a European cloud computing strategy. Consultations will take place in Brussels, on 23 May, as well as online.

Let me conclude by recapping the three pillars of my approach for the cloud strategy:

First, the legal framework: users' rights, data protection and privacy - including the global aspects of each of those.

Second, technical and commercial fundamentals: boosting research efforts, and focussing them on critical issues such as security and reliability.

Third, the market: we will support pilot projects for cloud deployment, and push public procurers into action.

This has got to be a European strategy, because without full coordination, we will fall short of our potential.

Let’s aim high instead – up to the clouds. Thank you for joining me in this collective effort.


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