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Shaping Europe's future for software, services, and cloud

Image courtesy Nicholas Ferguson.

The business value of cloud computing lies in developing new applications and the associated agility that comes with that. Cloud computing can also provide increased speed-to-market for businesses.

The future is about being able to manage diverse platforms: Businesses should not be told that they have to move onto a certain platform, but instead should be helped to make informed decisions on how to manage diverse platforms. Mobile and social networks are driving this change, drastically shortening the time it takes to develop applications.

Three core principles influence this move towards a more dynamic cloud: (1) potentially disparate cloud offerings should act as one dynamically managed, secure environment; (2) greater flexibility is required in the choice of delivery models; (3) use of standards should enable interoperability across delivery models.

These are just some of the recommendations that emerged from the second of three concertation meetings organized by the CloudWATCH project. The event, which was held in September, was organized on behalf of the 'Software & Services, Cloud' unit (E2) of the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content, and Technology (DG CONNECT).

Over 100 participants from 52 projects gathered in Brussels, Belgium, to take stock of the current situation and to identify common research priorities for the Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) 2016-2017 work program. Delegates reached consensus on the importance of moving towards a cloud service portfolio that is dynamically managed, with interoperable services and secure, flexible delivery models.

SMEs making themselves heard

Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) were present at the event. Their representatives offered practical tips on how European projects can help overcome IT 'pain points' and create the right support mechanisms, including legal tips that are essential for the uptake of cloud services by SMEs. A critical success factor for future projects is delivering products and services that can meet demand and add value in a highly competitive global marketplace. Construction, healthcare, and banking are all markets that should be targeted.

Uncertainty over trust and security of cloud computing are concerns for many European firms, with smaller companies tending to be most risk-averse: small and micro-enterprises are particularly keen to operate on safe grounds. Building a trusted cloud ecosystem for Europe is the only way to overcome barriers for SMEs and start-ups often unaware of the security risks they are facing. Concerns also include contracts, vendor lock-in, and data location and availability.

CloudWATCH concertation in practice

Three break-out sessions on cloud computing, software engineering, and open-source software identified a set of priorities for the LEIT 2016-2017 work program. These priorities were based on an assessment of the current research focus and how European-funded projects can build on current strengths through better results and greater uptake in the market.

The CloudWATCH consortium is organizing an Interoperability Demo Day at next month's UCC 2014 conference in London, UK. Find out more about this here.

Delegates agreed that clustering can help in promoting usability and reuse. One possible approach is to establish a set of consistent projects that work together on topics such as reference architecture and sharing consistent outputs. Focus should not only be on disruptive innovation but also on a more structured approach to turning partially successful prototypes into European success stories.

The report from the concertation meeting provides further details on all recommendations and is available on the CloudWATCH website. The results will contribute to the preparation of the LEIT 2016-2017 work program.

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