European cloud standards to drive innovation, says APM Group

As the cloud comes of age, the establishment of high-level pan-European cloud standards will be an important step towards fostering innovation and encouraging growth but, suggests APM Group, the Cloud Industry Forum’s (CIF) official certification partner, mandating overly prescriptive standards risks achieving the opposite.

Following on from the European Commission’s recently launched cloud strategy document, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is to work with key stakeholders to identify “a detailed map of the necessary standards for security, interoperability, data portability and reversibility” by 2013.

Commenting on the task at hand, Richard Pharro, CEO of APM Group, said: “There is no denying that the advancement of pan-European cloud standards would be a positive development – not least because our American counterparts have been so adept at regulating their own industry. Standards will be key to arriving at a common framework for cloud services, encouraging end user confidence, removing any uncertainty that surrounds the industry, and building a solid base upon which innovation can thrive. But to achieve this it’s vital that the standards that are eventually arrived at are carefully considered and appropriate.

“The EU will face a number of crossroads as it attempts to trace a standards roadmap for Europe. Success of the European cloud project depends upon the coordination of all 27-member states but given that cloud, by nature, is essentially stateless, this may prove challenging. Ultimately the implementation of any agreed standard would be down to interpretation. Will we have one set of standards, but 27 different interpretations?”

Pharro went on to suggest that rather than mandating standards for Cloud Service Providers (CSPs), the EU should allow market forces to regulate the industry:

“Mandating overly prescriptive standards tends to be counterproductive. The issue is that if the standards are too tough, people wont use them, risking slowing down the entire market. If you mandate the standards, CSPs will likely do the minimum to comply, and not go over and above the standards. Taking, for example, the situation we have with ISO 9000 – it is mandatory and people typically pay lip service to it. This situation is different when compliance is voluntary, where organisations often go over and above what is required. If the EU is to encourage growth and innovation, it must foster an environment in which it pays for CSPs to certify, strengthen their services and ultimately reap the market rewards for their efforts,” he concluded.

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