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Time to get loud about the cloud

Cloudscape VII attracted a mix of attendees from research, industry, and policy backgrounds.

With cloud computing enabling new research collaborations and providing stimulus for economic growth, there was plenty to shout about at last week's Cloudscape VII event in Brussels, Belgium.

Gabriella Cattaneo, associate vice president of IDC European Government Consulting, presented some startling figures highlighting the rapid growth and uptake of cloud computing technologies. According to IDC's research, around three quarters of large European enterprises make use of cloud computing technologies today, as do just under two thirds of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

At around €6 billion (approximately $6.5 billion), total spending on cloud computing technologies in Europe currently equates to less than 5% of all IT spending. By the end of this decade, this figure is set to reach around €45 billion (approximately $48 billion), which is expected to represent over 10% of total IT spending. Today, most cloud-computing spending goes towards 'software-as a-service' solutions (SaaS). By contrast, in 2020 more than half of the money spent is expected to go towards private 'infrastructure-as-a-service' cloud solutions (IaaS).

"Cloud will contribute significantly to growth of the EU economy," says Cattaneo. IDC's research shows that cloud computing technologies could enable the creation of over 300,000 new companies by 2020 and could be responsible for over 0.7% of the European Union's total gross domestic product.

Security and legal concerns

Despite these projections, significant barriers to uptake remain. Pearse O'Donohue, head of Unit E2 Software and Services, Cloud Computing at the European Commission highlighted some of the barriers faced by SME users in a panel discussion dedicated to cybersecurity. "There is still uncertainty and a lack of confidence in engaging with cloud," says O'Donohue, who pointed to a recent report by Eurostat that found people have concerns about where their data is located when using the cloud. He and other panellists agreed that much emphasis needs to be placed on education, since cybercriminals often exploit human errors.

A legal perspective to cloud computing was provided by Kuan Hon, a research consultant to the Cloud Legal project at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies at Queen Mary University of London, UK. She spoke at length about the European Commission's draft General Data Protection Regulation, which she argues could expose cloud service providers to liability in a range of situations, including for the security of personal data. Hon also emphasized the importance of businesses and citizens alike better equipping themselves to understand the legal implications of entering into cloud computing contracts. Read more from Hon in our in-depth interview.

Exciting new European projects showcased

Several new projects, each of which has received funding under the European Commission's new Horizon 2020 Framework Programme, were presented at the two-day event:

A number of projects and initiatives that have received funding under the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme were also discussed, including Cloud for Europe, BonFIRE, Helix Nebula, CloudWATCH, and others.

More new projects from the US and Brazil

Of course, cloud computing isn't just inspiring exciting new projects in Europe. Alan Sill, senior scientist at the Texas Tech University High Performance Computing Center in the US and vice president of standards for the Open Grid Forum, presented two exciting new projects funded by the US National Science Foundation.

Leading voices on cloud computing

"There was much interest at this year's event in 'the intercloud', with industry taking bold leaps on top of the original IEEE Intercloud testbed initiative," says Silvana Muscella, founder and managing director of Trust-IT Services Ltd., the company that organizes the Cloudscape events. "Cybersecurity was also a major topic in this year's agenda, as well as data privacy issues around law enforcement." Muscella continues: "These issues intertwined nicely with growing interest in 'the internet of things', making the event a perfect setting for all."

"Cloudscape has been sustaining high-level discussions about cloud in Europe for seven years now," adds Mario Campolargo, director for Net Futures at the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content, and Technology (DG CONNECT). "This is very good to see".

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