The European institutions have been developing policy on cloud computing since the adoption of the first European Cloud Computing Strategy in 2012. At that moment, the main objective was to harness the productivity that could be achieved by easy access to the best-performing business applications and/or drastically boosting their infrastructure resources at an affordable cost.
Being fully embedded in the data economy, the stakes are now much higher. Cloud computing has become a key enabler of data-driven innovation and technologies, such as 5G, AI and Internet of Things. In addition, cloud technologies offer a model of ondemand data storage and processing, both in centralised data centres, or in distributed connected devices close to the user (at the edge of the network).
“We must be bold in our efforts to ensure that European businesses and the public sector can run and store their data safely within the demands of European rules and standards”
The European Commission estimates that by 2025, 80 percent of all data will be processed in smart devices. From the policymaker’s perspective, we must be bold in our efforts to ensure that European businesses and the public sector can run and store their data safely within the demands of European rules and standards. Raising awareness of the crucial role that cloud computing development plays in a data-powered economy did not happened overnight, and the first step was taken in 2015 with the initiation of a process to create the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).
The EOSC aims to develop a trusted, virtual, federated environment that cuts across borders and scientific disciplines to store, share, process and re-use research digital objects (such as publications, data, and software) in accordance with ‘fair’ principles.
The ambition today is to develop the same federated environment where data can be shared while safeguarding European values, but an environment not limited to research. So, what do we need to do for Europe to build its cloud computing supply? For a start, having the adequate physical infrastructure in the data economy is a prerequisite for economic growth and higher productivity in general, and for cloud development in particular.
For this reason, the promotion of investment in very high-capacity networks, together with an efficient management of the spectrum, is vital. The implementation of the Electronic Communications Code (where many Member States are falling behind) as well as the review of the Broadband Cost Reduction Directive is therefore necessary.
However, this is only part of the story. Digital infrastructure - the physical resources necessary to enable the use of data, computerised devices, methods, systems and processes - is the other part. Europe needs to continue to develop policies that contribute to building innovative ecosystems.
These should promote data sharing between businesses and public organisations; promote investment in new forms of cloud and edge computing; continue to ensure the free flow of data; and develop policies that allow cloud users to easily move their data and applications from one provider to another. They must also guarantee high standards for cloud services on the European market in terms of security and competitiveness. I believe we are on the right path.
We have some very important legislative proposals on the table, such as the Data Governance draft regulation, the NIS Review and the Digital Services Act package, that will directly impact the EU’s take on data and consequently how cloud computing will develop in Europe.
Regarding the guarantee of security standards, the EU cybersecurity agency, ENISA, is finalising a certification scheme that should be ready for market adoption in the course of 2021. A single European scheme for cloud security certification will build trust in cloud computing and provide legal certainty, in contrast with the many other commercial schemes on the market.
“A single European scheme for cloud security certification will build trust in cloud computing and provide legal certainty, in contrast with the many other commercial schemes on the market”
On the topic of public research funding, we have seen a substantial increase within the Horizon 2020 funding programme; the EU invested around €300m in projects related to cloud computing and software between 2014-20. Within the current financial programming period (through Horizon Europe, Connecting Europe Facility and Digital Europe Programme), which runs until 2027, funding efforts will reach up to €2bn.
Last, the European Alliance for Industrial Data and Cloud, building on the important contribution of GAIA X, will play a pivotal role in how cloud computing will look in the EU. The Alliance has an ambitious agenda; not only will it likely yield an Important Project of Common European Interest but it will also develop an EU Cloud Rulebook and an EU Cloud Marketplace based on European legal standards and values. Europe must continue to walk this path; the path that will allow the EU to build its cloud supply on its own terms.