Well, not really, but Phil Wainewright and I found ourselves on the opposing sides of a debate organised by EuroCloud which looked at the progress (or lack thereof) towards a pan European Union Cloud Computing strategy.
Regular readers will not be surprised to know that I took the ‘bad idea’ stance - supported by Frank Jennings of law firm DMH Stallard and entrepreneur Frank Bennett.
For the motion that This House believes in the creation of a European Cloud was Phil and Emily Jones of law firm Osborne Clarke, supporting the main advocate Dr Richard Sykes, chairman of the Cloud Industry Forum.
While the debate was conducted under Chatham House rules, suffice to say Richard kicked off by eruditely quoting from the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau while I opted for a touch of mild xenophobia borrowed from a 1980s TV sitcom and ended with the sorry example of the Euro Sausage AKA the emulsified high fat offal tube.
(The result? Oh well, since you ask - I wasn’t going to mention it! - a resounding 19-6 victory for me and the two Franks!)
On a more serious note, the debate did address a lot of concerns and flagged up a lot of interesting questions - and I suspect that in reality all the speakers could find themselves roughly in agreement on the need for the political aspects of the standards creation drive to take a back seat!
The debate also reminded me that we should update on the progress of the Cloud Standards Co-ordination (CSC) work done by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and which formally published its report before Christmas. Phil last touched on this last October.
The overall objective of the CSC initiative led by ETSI was to identify a detailed map of the standards required to support a series of policy objectives defined by the European Commission.
The initiative attracted cloud industry players, public authorities, user associations and more than 20 standards setting organizations to work collectively on this objective.
- A definition of roles in cloud computing;
- The collection and classification of over 100 cloud computing Use Cases;
- A list of around 20 relevant organizations in cloud computing standardization and a selection
- of around 150 associated documents, Standards & Specifications as well as Reports & White
- Papers produced by these organizations
- A classification of activities that need to be undertaken by Cloud Service Customers or Cloud
- Service Providers over the whole Cloud Service Life-Cycle;
- A mapping of the selected cloud computing documents (in particular Standards &
- Specifications) on these activities.
Its main conclusions:
- Cloud standardization is much more focused that anticipated - or in other words, the Cloud Standards landscape is complex but not chaotic and by no means a 'jungle’.
- Cloud computing-specific standards have not seen widespread adoption by cloud providers to date. But ETSI concludes:
Cloud Standardization will likely mature in the next 18 months. Adoption may be encouraged if mechanisms are found for domain- specific stakeholders to agree on shared vocabularies and formal definitions that are machine readable.
- Open source projects are creating tried-and-tested APIs, protocols and environments which address aspects of interoperability, portability and security relating to cloud computing. ETSI concludes:
It is possible that future specifications and standards may derive from one or more of the open source projects. Some examples of positive interaction have already been seen between standards bodies and open source projects that should be encouraged.
- Important gaps in the cloud computing standards landscape have been identified.
- The legal environment for cloud computing is highly challenging and research into standardized ways of describing, advertising, consuming and verifying legal requirements is necessary. ETSI concludes:
Given the global nature of the cloud and its potential to transcend international borders, there is a need for international Framework and Governance, underpinned via global standards.
The main recommendations:
- The European Commission should take its conclusions out of this report and bring them in as suggestions into the EU Rolling Plan for ICT Standardisation.
- On the basis of the Rolling Plan all stakeholders shall analyse and coordinate on required actions regarding standards developments.
- Given the dynamic nature of the cloud market, the Commission will need an updated report in 12 to 18 months from now to reflect that: the maturation of standardization will be significant in this time frame and new conclusions could help the cloud community to better address its standardization longer-term challenges.
- A "lessons learned" session leading to a list of improvements to the process and to the document should be held between the CSC and the EC.
- In addition, greater coordination and collaboration between standards bodies should be encouraged.
For her part, EC Digital Agenda Commission Neelie Kroes welcomed the report:
“It is always a good feeling when you see some item on your to-do-list delivered.”
But a story far from over of course and one very much to keep on watching in 2014.