European Union defines cloud computing

EU report pins definition to nebulous concept, recommends regulatory framework and interoperability standards

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A report from the European Union on cloud computing has proposed a standard definition of the concept, which is still viewed with some confusion in many quarters.

A cloud, the report asserts, is an “elastic execution environment of resources involving multiple stakeholders and providing a metered service at multiple granularities for a specified level of quality (of service).”

“'Clouds' do not refer to a specific technology,” the report says, “but to a general provisioning paradigm with enhanced capabilities.” Among the functional characteristics of a compute cloud, as identified by the report, are ‘elasticity’, ‘reliability’ and ‘availability’.

The report suggests that cloud computing presents an significant opportunity for European IT and telecommunications company and, more broadly, will revolutionise the way IT services are bought and sold. “Europe could and should develop a ‘free market for IT services’ to match those for movement of goods, services, capital, and skills,” it says.

But there are challenges facing the cloud, it adds, and recommends EU-backed research, the development of interoperability standards and of a regulatory framework to clarify legal issues.

This latter point chimes with calls made last month by Microsoft’s general counsel Brad Smith for the US government “to modernise the laws, adapt them to the cloud, and adopt new measures to protect privacy and promote security.”

“There is no doubt that the future holds even more opportunities than the present, but it also contains critical challenges that we must address now if we want to take full advantage of the potential of cloud computing,” said Smith.