H-CLOUD Talks: Expert views on European Cloud Computing – Vol 1: Alban Schmutz


Cloud has demonstrated to be key to ensure resiliency for industries, services, and even governments. Few days ago, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy has adopted a Cloud first procurement policy, right after Russia invaded his country, to ensure that data, including military, could be stored in the cloud, to ensure resilience of operation for state and local authorities, as well as significant budget reduction. In a very different type of threat, the Covid pandemic has also shown that Cloud was key to maintain operations, remote working or education, which has conducted 82% of IT buyers to increase investments in Cloud services.

In the light of these facts, the European Commission aim of bringing 75% of European companies in the Cloud by 2030 (according to the “Digital Compass 2030”) seems already not sufficient. Europe needs to build a leadership in the Cloud and cannot be a follower, neither on technologies or strength of its leading companies. Leadership in regulation is not sufficient.

So yes, Europe is at the forefront of the regulation for Cloud services. Opening the dance some years ago with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which set a new de facto international standard for data protection, Europe has accelerated: over 20 regulatory proposals addressing directly and indirectly Cloud services are currently on the desks of policy makers in Brussels! At various stages of development, they address a broad variety of topics: competition law, sustainability, transparency, portability of data, cybersecurity, hate speech, etc. As the Cloud has become central to all business and citizen activities, EU regulation expects to embrace it, and to make it one of the most regulated markets.

But quantity does not make quality. For example, the “Digital Markets Act” (DMA), for which political agreement is almost achieved, does not include legacy software gatekeepers in its scope. This is disappointing, given that misbehaviors of one of them are pointed by dozens of EU and non-EU providers, as underlined by 3 formal complaints against Microsoft in less than 18 months, filed by Slack, Nextcloud, and a group of EU providers, and supported by many other companies. Through ex-ante rules, the DMA was expected to bring answers to the slowness of traditional competition law, which often last more than 10 years: an eternity in the Cloud market! Groups of Cloud users and Cloud providers across Europe (France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Germany, Denmark, UK…) have even joined forces almost one year ago to propose “10 principles for Fair Software licensing in the Cloud” in April 2021, which could have been the right basis to address the topic. A missed opportunity, given that non-European regulation may be reopened within 10 years after its entry into force!

In 2020, the public sector within the EU reached 53% of EU’s GDP (source: Eurostat), underlining again the key importance of mobilizing public procurement to foster both digital transformation and green transition. But we still have a balkanized public procurement policy across Europe. Some Member States introduced Cloud first public procurement policies, but results remain limited. An EU integrated market must lead to joint guidelines in place in each Member State. To help this process CISPE, a group of competing cloud providers, has for example published in February 2022 and presented to the EU Member States within the European Alliance for Data Cloud and Edge, an updated version of its handbook for “Buying Cloud Services in Public Sector”, to help public buyers to draft tenders and speed up the processes. At the heart of what should be integrated in the guidelines, the KPIs defined between the industry and the EC within the Climate Neutral Data Centre Pact to ensure Climate Neutrality of Data Centers by 2030, the respect of Fair Software Licensing Principles, as well as the highest standards in Data Protection enabled by the CISPE Data Protection Code of Conduct.

The EU has demonstrated in the past weeks and months, that in crisis, structuring decision can be taken fast and even unanimously by the 27 Member States. We now have a huge opportunity to accelerate and to put in place decisions that have been postponed for years: create a European Small Business Act, rely on Climate Neutral suppliers, enforce real Fair Competition, and speed up investments through contracts and not subsidies. That’s the key for resilience and climate neutrality. Let’s act.

Alban Schmutz is Chairman and Founder of CISPE.cloud (Cloud Infrastructure Services in Europe) and Advisory Board Member of the H-CLOUD CSA. “H-CLOUD Talks” is a new blog and interview format highlighting expert views on the future of Cloud Computing in Europe.