Tag Archives: Europe

European Commission praises Cloud Computing

At present, Europe maintains its differences in language, customs and laws. At the same time though, it is strategically and economically unified: the 27 nations of the European Union make up a single market that is the world’s largest economy.

European policymakers now have an opportunity to further strengthen this economic partnership for the digital age. The arrival of cloud computing technology could potentially make an already tight union even more logical and advantageous than ever before. The cloud allows a corporation to build its physical headquarters in one country, get the technology it needs to run its operations from a service provider that may be located in another, and accommodate customers all around the world.

According to analysts Gartner, however, varying privacy rules, business processes and legislation across the 27 nations, the deepening debt crisis and a lingering recession are amongst many problems that will add to a delay in adoption of cloud computing in Europe. Conversely, it would seem that interest in cloud computing remains high and appears to be making a step forward.

The European Commission’s panel on privacy is shortly expected to endorse the concept of cloud computing as legal under the Continent’s privacy law and to recommend for the first time that large enterprises and organizations police themselves to assure that personal information kept in remote locations is protected.

It has been anticipated that the panel, known as the Article 29 Working Party, will make the recommendation as part of its long-awaited guidelines on cloud computing, which allegedly have the potential to dispel concerns regarding data privacy and advance the adoption of the remote-computing services, which are currently more common in the United States.

The news follows the EC’s previous pledge that they made earlier this year, to invest €10m to boost European cloud adoption. Building on the pledge Neelie Kroes, the European digital agenda commissioner, warned that in order to fully reap the benefits of cloud, Europe would need to create a single, lightly regulated market that companies felt secure using.

Some analysts are convinced that the forthcoming recommendations will overcome lingering reluctance of European companies’ to store data in U.S.-based clouds, where sensitive information about customers or business practices can theoretically be subject to government surveillance under the Patriot Act.

The guidelines expected to be introduced are nonbinding. Regulators in E.U. countries, however, are required to give them the “utmost consideration” in drafting national policies, as well as having the choice to interpret the guidelines as they see fit.

Consequently, the guidelines are likely to influence many E.U. nations in their treatment of cloud computing and privacy, particularly the recommendation that regulators accept third-party audits paid for by cloud service companies as proof that personal information is being handled, even in non-E.U. countries, under E.U. privacy laws. Previously, some E.U. regulators had been reluctant to accept the audits.

Without doubt, such steps taken by the European Commission exemplify the lending of greater support to cloud computing than ever before, and therefore represent the changing face of cloud computing in Europe as a whole by generating a more permissive outlook to its implementation. Not only could its adoption revolutionise public services, making it easier to provide services that are integrated, effective and at a lower cost, but it also has the potential to offer nation states as much as €200bn in economic benefits, according to Kroes.

European data security and cloud computing

Does your off-site data centre have to be within commuting distance? Perhaps not. Should it at least be in the same country? According to Megan Richards, a European Commission director and acting deputy director general of Information Society and Media, “it shouldn’t matter where data is held as long as our [EC] rules apply”.

Since 1995 there has been a directive, rather than a piece of legislature, for EU countries regarding off-site data storage. Currently, individual states can implement the directive as and how they wish, making off-shore data storage very risky for any company with sensitive data.

The proposed reforms, in motion since January of this year, aim to bring all 27 EU member states up to the same speed by binding them under a common law. Thus, in theory, once all members adopt the law, a company based in the UK would have as much confidence that their data would be as securely protected in Romania as it would be in the UK.

Richards’ comments came at this week’s Cloud Computing World Forum (CCWF2012) in London and were made in relation to the importance of cloud computing to the five biggest European economies between now and 2020 (€700 bn and 5 million new jobs of importance to give a rough estimate).

Richards spoke of improving data security as part of progressing cloud computing throughout Europe. However, on top of data security improving, Europe’s broadband needs to be of a consistently high quality, something that isn’t currently so. If internet speeds improve, cloud computing promises to be a tool that all of Europe can utilise.

Rural Broadband: Slow To Improve

According to The Countryside Alliance, plans that were made by the government to bring superfast broadband to rural areas have made little progress. In October 2010, George Osborn, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, revealed that Cumbria, Herefordshire, North Yorkshire and the Highlands and Islands would be the four areas that would be used to trial the scheme.

The Countryside Alliance revealed its findings after sending freedom of information requests to the councils that are involved. The information that was received from the councils confirmed that none of the councils have received any money from the Treasury, and that none of them have even selected a broadband company to setup the networks.

This has raised concerns amongst members of The Countryside Alliance as they feel that the amount of time to even implement a pilot scheme has taken far too long, and that the divide between the urban and rural areas will only increase. They are fearful that if the process isn’t sped up, the money that is to be invested will not be enough to close the gap significantly.

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance argued “It has been over a year since these pilots were set up and the people who live in areas with no or unreliable broadband coverage haven’t seen any improvement. Unless more is done to simplify the process of acquiring and implementing rural broadband projects, the digital divide will continue to grow and the money pledged by the Coalition will remain all but worthless.”

The government who are aiming to make the UK number one in Europe at having the best broadband network in place by 2015 are in a much more positive mind frame. A spokesman claimed that the councils are making good progress with the projects, and that the nation is on course to have the best broadband network in Europe by 2015.

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sports also argued that “The money for these projects has been allocated and will be provided to the local authorities when they begin spending on the projects. This is standard practice in provision of capital grants.”

As people have become more reliant on the internet for business and general use, the importance of having faster broadband speeds has become more prominent. Whilst the need for faster broadband speeds has been recognised, it is mainly those living in urban areas that have been able to take advantage of them. Supplying those who live in the more rural and remote areas within the nation with faster broadband speeds has become very intermittent and as a result, many people are still having to cope with slow broadband speeds.

One reason why it has taken so long to get things moving is because the government has passed the responsibility of choosing which company will be employed to set up the broadband networks to the councils. As a result of this, councillors have the added pressure of determining which company will be employed. This is not an easy, straight forward task when competing companies such as BT and Fujitsu are bidding against each other.

Malcolm Corbett, head of the Independent Networks Co-operative Association believes that this is the main reason why so little progress has been made. He argued “The government has put the job into the hands of councillors who have never done it before.”

The bidding process has so far cost the councils and competing companies thousands of pounds which have resulted in a number of companies withdrawing their offers.  Herefordshire County Council has revealed that the bidding process has cost them around £50,000 so far, whilst Fujitsu have claimed that they have had to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds to bid for the different regions. The money involved in the bidding process has been too much for some of the smaller competing companies such as Geo UK who are one of a few companies to completely withdraw.

Many people believe that due to such procedures and delays, that the government is disillusioned if it genuinely believes that the UK will have Europe’s best broadband network by 2015. Malcolm Corbett sums it up by claiming “The government has set a deadline to be the best for broadband in Europe by 2015 but no-one thinks this is achievable.”

Shameful UK Internet Speeds

Akami just published the results of a survey which monitored 604 million unique IP addresses from 238 countries and regions.

Asia dominated this contest with South Korea emerging top with an average 13.8Mbps connection speed. This was closely followed by Hong Kong with 10Mbps then Japan at 8.9Mbps.

The UK had a shocker and trailed at 25th in the world with an average speed of just 5Mbps. It didn’t even fair well in Europe coming 15 out of the 22 countries surveyed.

The Netherlands won the contest in Europe with average speeds of 8.5Mbps. In addition the Netherlands came top with regards to having ‘higher broadband.’ This refers to connections higher than 5Mbps. In the Netherlands 68% of connections were in this bracket.

The UK again fell flat in this respect with just 30% of the population having access to ‘higher broadband.’ This is particularly shameful as 7 of the top 10 were in Europe!

Positive was the fact that the average global broadband speed has improved by 21% to 2.6Mbps. In the UK speeds have increased by 28% in the last 12 months. However this has not improved in the last quarter, whereas 80 other countries/regions saw their connection speeds increase by 10% within this period.

It is not just the online backup and disaster recovery market which would benefit from more modern internet speeds, it’s every industry. The UK needs to double its efforts to stay up to date.

BlackBerry Outage Affects Millions of Users

A disastrous 36 hours for Blackberry has left millions of customers disgruntled and angry due to service failures that occurred on Monday and Tuesday.

By Monday afternoon, thousands of Blackberry users found that they could no longer send emails, BBMs or access applications such as Twitter and Facebook from their phones. These problems affected Blackberry users in Europe but soon spread with users all over the world experiencing similar problems.  It didn’t take long for thousands of customers to take to social networking sites to cite their anger and annoyance. Those who were more proactive and determined to find out what the problem was contacted their mobile phone networks for advice. They were all directed to Research in Motion (RIM) who is the Canadian company behind Blackberry. These efforts did not get them very far.

After some hours of the problem first being apparent, RIM finally released a statement on their Twitter account stating “Some users in EMEA are experiencing issues. We’re investigating, and we apologise for any inconvenience.”

EMEA will not be a term that most users will have come across or understand. It actually stands for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Surely using such terminology should have been looked at and will have left thousands of people searching the abbreviated term to gain an understanding.

It took until 21:00 that evening when another official statement was released by RIM saying “Earlier today, some BlackBerry subscribers in the EMEA region experienced delays with BlackBerry services. The issue was resolved and services are operating normally. We apologise to those customers who were impacted for any inconvenience.”

No statement had been released as to what had gone wrong and why it occurred. It was a clear attempt to sweep the whole event under the carpet and to play down the overall impact that the service failures may have had, especially with many people using Blackberries for business purposes.

A new day, no more problems, not for Blackberry users. On Tuesday morning, more reports from disgruntled Blackberry users started to appear on social networking sites stating similar problems such as emails not arriving and BBM failing once again. Yet again, these problems spread across the world affecting millions of users.

The obvious reluctance by RIM to release any statements regarding to why Blackberry users were struggling to access and use applications on their phones is very apparent as it took until 21:53 on Tuesday to release a statement explaining what had gone wrong.

RIM explained “The messaging and browsing delays being experienced by BlackBerry users in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, Brazil, Chile and Argentina were caused by a core switch failure within RIM’s infrastructure. Although the system is designed to failover to a back-up switch, the failover did not function as previously tested. As a result, a large backlog of data was generated and we are now working to clear that backlog and restore normal service as quickly as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience and we will continue to keep you informed.”

This morning another statement has been released stating that the problem has been resolved and that everything should be running fine. A similar thing was stated on Monday and things went wrong on Tuesday so can all Blackberry users be confident that the service they pay for will be working fine for the foreseeable future?

An unexpected two day shutdown undoubtedly will have angered many Blackberry users which will have only been increased after the initial statement that the problem had been fixed.  The obvious contempt that was shown by Blackberry and RIM is astonishing and could well cost them dearly as thousands of present and future customers may well decide to turn to competing companies.

Streamlining Data Centre Efficiency

Increasingly businesses are looking to optimise the efficiency of data centres. In order to make data centres more sustainable IT departments are looking to smartly utilise natural resources as well as virtualise and consolidate. Currently the carbon footprint treaded by data centres is comparable to that of air travel.

Especially apparent in the current economic climate is the emphasis on the optimisation of the data centre within all businesses. According to Gartner – ‘Organisations are starting to take a serious look at consumption ratios of compute power to energy consumed and then compare them against estimated productivity of applications, as well as the equipment to deliver that application.’

The inefficiency of the majority of data centres becomes especially apparent when you consider how the energy consumption breaks down. Cooling accounts for 40% of overall energy consumption and is expected to reach $50 billion globally by the end of the century. Not to mention the fact that within data centres 30% of the servers are generally dead, consuming energy without being properly utilised.

In addition there has been a steady increase in the number of data centres being built. Within the U.S.A the number of data centres has reached the 10,000 mark and Gartner expect an increase in enterprise IT budgets of between 10-50%. Traditionally the leaders in data centre construction have been the U.S. and Europe. However Asia and the Pacific are rapidly catching up.

The global increase in data centres has however produced novel engineering methods to increase efficiency. Acamdemica have pushed such a novel scheme in Helsinki, a city where temperatures reach -20ºC.  Water used to cool data centres is recycled and used to provide heat for over 500 homes.  The same water is then re-circulated to cool the servers again.

The push for greener and more efficient data centres is now more apparent than ever with energy costs rising rapidly as well as the new UK Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) obligations.

Such a push needs to continue throughout the entire industry, from the power suppliers to the rack makers and industry leaders must work together to drive improvement.

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