• Wrong choice now runs up huge costs later
  • Interoperability, standards needed for benefit of business and government
  • Open approach is vital to avoid lock-in and facilitate vendor switching

BRUSSELS, 12 November – Government and businesses should act with care in choosing a cloud provider or may face big switching costs, according to a report that was being released on Thursday by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS).

The report, “Ensuring a thriving cloud market: Why interoperability matters for business and government”, describes common pitfalls for businesses and governments trying to purchase cloud services, and suggests strategies to counteract potentially costly problems.

Users become locked in to one system if it is proprietary. The alternative is to use systems designed to common standards, freely available for use by anyone, known as “open standards.” Such open standards are used on the World Wide Web.

The report suggests users make sure they choose cloud providers who allow permit them to remove their own data – and the complex formats in which it is stored – without paying huge fees. In some cases, users are forced to make a complex, costly, and difficult conversion from a proprietary format.

“It is essential that enterprises do not overlook the implications of switching vendors in the future,” the report says. “Open interfaces and data formats – based on open standards – are key.”

“Closed interfaces and data formats may also limit the ability of the user to efficiently transfer their data in the future. This is the very definition of lock-in,” the report says.

In addition, the report offers policy makers four recommendations to help assure interoperability:

  • Public procurement:  Governments need to consider exit and migration strategies when considering purchases, and need to know that closed or proprietary solutions can make it costly and inefficient to transfer data or applications.
  • World Wide Cloud: Like the World Wide Web and the Internet, the value of the cloud lies in its global nature, and fragmenting the cloud will inhibit the cloud.
  • Follow EU competition rules: Cloud providers should compete on the merits.
  • Establish criteria for customers: Provide questions to help buyers evaluate offers, to judge if they face the risk of lock-in.

The report explains in detail how cloud services are arranged and sold. Generally public clouds – as opposed to those run within a company or agency – are sold in three different ways, at the levels of software, platforms, or infrastructure. Clouds substitute for computers or servers in the following instances:

SaaS: Those who choose to purchase software as a service (SaaS) use software that is running at some remote location and store data there. The user is unaware of the underlying operating system or any other details, but simply uses the software as though it were on a local computer.

The report said users may face trouble if SaaS software such as word processing or email relies on proprietary data formats, because “the ability to move seamlessly from one vendor to another may be difficult.”

PaaS: At the next level is the Platform as a Service (PaaS), which allows customers to build and operate their own applications. These apps run on an operating system in the cloud.

Some of these cloud operating systems have open and standard inter-connections upon which the apps rely, but others are proprietary. It is relatively simple to move from one standardised, open PaaS operating system to another, but difficult to move from a proprietary system.

The report warns that Platform as a Service “has strong potential to lock users in to proprietary platforms.”

IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provides an entire computer remotely. Engineers can write their own operating systems, and everything above it – applications, storage and all the rest. However, just as with PaaS the inter-connections to this virtual computer can be open or proprietary – or even a mix.

Customers interact with the cloud at what is known as the “management interface”. Whatever is behind the management interface is hidden to consumers, and whether the underlying operating system is open or closed is irrelevant.

“The management interface – perhaps the most critical [level] – may still be proprietary. As a result, the majority of cloud services today are driven by a proprietary platform,” the report said. Open management interfaces are available to consumers from some cloud providers.

ENDS

For the full text of the report, please see: http://www.ecis.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Cloud-Computing-Standards-Compatibility-and-Interoperability1.pdf

For ECIS’ policy recommendations prepared on the basis of the report, please see: http://www.ecis.eu/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ECIS-cloud-computing-paper_Policy-Recommendations.pdf

About ECIS:

ECIS is an international non-profit association founded in 1989 that endeavours to promote a favourable environment for interoperable ICT solutions. It has actively represented its members regarding issues related to interoperability and competition before European, international and national fora, including the EU institutions and WIPO. ECIS’ members include large and smaller information and communications technology hardware and software providers. The association strives to promote market conditions in the ICT sector that ensure there is vigorous competition on the merits and a diversity of consumer choice.

Twitter: #ecisbrussels

Contacts: info@ecis.eu

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When?

Thursday 13 November 2014, 3 pm to 6 pm followed by a reception

Where?

Sofitel Brussels Europe, Place Jourdan 1, 1040 Brussels

The European Committee for Interoperable Systems invites you to its annual symposium, this year presenting its white paper on the benefits of standards and interoperability among cloud providers, which is intended to help users avoid being locked into a single vendor.

The paper looks at the way the architecture of the cloud evolved and how governments and enterprises  can assess to what degree proprietary approaches are used, which can make it difficult or expensive to move to a competitor.

The first panel will run through the findings of the paper and discuss its implications. The second panel – comprising the European Commission, the Norwegian government, and a private sector SME cloud provider – will debate what the implications are for their organisations and look wider at other policy issues, what it means to be open in the cloud and the evolution of the Commission’s cloud strategy.

The ECIS perspective is that standards, compatibility and interoperability are needed to assure the potential of cloud computing is fully realised in Europe.

The symposium will be followed by a reception.

Agenda

15.00
Welcome by Thomas Vinje, ECIS Legal Counsel and Spokesman

15.15
Session I: Presentation of ECIS’ white paper on ‘Ensuring a thriving cloud services market: Why interoperability matters for business and government’

Speakers

Mark Terranova
Director of Competitive Intelligence, Software Group, IBM

Paul Brownell
EMEA Public Policy Director, Red Hat

Moderated by Aoife White, reporter, Bloomberg

16.15
Session II: Considering exit and migration issues in the cloud – the policy-makers’, the developers’, and the users’ perspective

A debate on the issues raised by ECIS’ white paper

Speakers

Katarina de Brisis
Deputy Director General with responsibility for the Cloud, Ministry of Government Administration and Reform, Norway

Nicky Stewart
Commercial Director, Skyscape

Graham Taylor
Chief Executive, OpenForum Europe

Pearse o’ Donohue
Head of Unit, Software and Services, Cloud, European Commission

Professor Ian Walden
Professor of Information and Communications Law, Queen Mary University of London

Moderated by Peter Linton, Senior Adviser, Burson Marsteller

Closing Remarks: Thomas Vinje
ECIS Legal Counsel and Spokesman

18.00
Networking cocktail
Please join us afterwards for a cocktail and canapé networking reception, providing an opportunity to speak with some of our speakers about issues raised during the debate.

Please RSVP to info@ecis.eu, or telephone Jessica Kersten  at +32 (0) 2 533 5085

 

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ECIS welcomes European public procurement based on open standards ECIS welcomes the European Commission’s recognition of open standards developed by global fora and consortia for reference in public procurement. In the past, standards developed by global consortia organized on the basis of open and transparent principles, such as the World Wide Web Consortiusm (W3C) and Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), could not be cited in public procurement documents.

The European Union’s ICT standardization regulation adopted in October 2012, Regulation 1015/2012, took a new, more inclusive approach. And in April, 2014, the European Commission took the next step adopting its first implementing decision on the basis of the Regulation setting out six standards which governments may cite in requests for procurement.

As the Commission said in adopting the new approach, now governments can help avoid “lock-in” to products which rely on proprietary standards. Instead, they can cite to open standards which (as the Commission noted) will help “encourage competition in the supply of interoperabile ICT solutions.”

Our reason for being is to encourage interoperability. This decision holds the promise of increased efficiency and cost savings for government, and benefits to consumers.

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Introduction

The European Commission is pondering ways to update copyright law so it keeps pace with technology, but this will be a delicate task and the first order of business must be to preserve what works well. Today the law successfully balances interests of copyright holders with those of innovators. For example, software makers may do what is necessary to inter-operate with existing programs, clearing the way for new programs that build on existing ones.

Technology and the internet have changed the way we work, watch movies, buy shoes and pay our bills. As we update copyright to take all this into account, the European Committee for Interoperable Systems believes we must preserve the existing principle of interoperability. At the same time we should protect such fundamental building blocks of the Internet as hyperlinking and text and data mining.

Some individual Member States now impose levies on blank tapes and storage media. We must take care to avoid similar levies on cloud services, which would put a drag on the expansion of such services across the EU and place them at a competitive disadvantage compared to the United States and others.

Inter-operability

Companies in the EU now reverse engineer copyrighted programs so their innovative software will work smoothly with existing proprietary software. This approach should be preserved in any new EU copyright provisions so innovation can continue for everything from word processors to music players.

Analytics

The internet makes it possible to analyse large amounts of text and data in ways never before possible, stoking a growing market for new facts and hypotheses which teach us more about the world and ourselves. Copyright was meant to encourage new creative works by assuring the creators they can be remunerated. A system that was supposed to assure the flow of plays, movies and novels was never meant to discourage analysis.

Nonetheless, some argue text and data analytics fall under copyright protection. However, Professor Ian Hargreaves has explained that any such protection is an unintended side effect of the law, not its intent. (His views are detailed in section 5.24 on page 47 of an independent report commissioned by British Prime Minister David Cameron.)

Text and data mining should fall outside the scope of copyright protection, or the rich benefits of text and data mining could be at risk

Hyperlinks

As anyone using the Web knows, hyperlinks are an indispensible navigation tool. We link to source material that substantiates or enhances books, blogs and magazines. Proposals to require permission from the copyright holder before a URL can be cited threaten one of the biggest advantages of the Web – an automated and vastly improved version of footnotes.

Such a novel burden on links – which has never been part of the Web – would likely be honoured in the breech and undermine the legitimacy of copyright legislation itself. And to the extent it did succeed it would interfere with the free availability of Web resources. Indeed, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in January, 2014, in case C-466/12 Svensson, that hyperlinking to websites freely accessible to all users is no copyright infringement, and requires no prior authorisation.

Levies

Finally, some have proposed new fees on services in the cloud to compensate creators for the copying of their works, like those which some Member States now impose on blank discs and storage media. Some EU countries have such surcharges, each at its own rate, with the rationale that people may use these blank materials to reproduce copyrighted materials. The fees flow to “collecting societies”, and are supposed to be passed along to compensate artists, composers and authors for the copying of their works.

Several Member States have extended these levies to mobile phones, because some portion of mobile phone memory might be used to reproduce copyrighted works. That is like using a shotgun to kill a flea: a wildly ineffective measure that causes a lot of damage.

European courts have found storage media manufacturers are sometimes forced to pay levies in multiple countries in violation of EU law, even though such storage media are mostly used for things other than reproducing copyrighted materials.

Imposing additional levies on cloud services, including services which are free today and meant to be so, would put a drag on the European economy. It would put Europe at a disadvantage compared to the United States (which has no similar impediments), further fragment the single market, and still fail to accomplish its state goal of protecting creators.

Conclusion

There is real merit in taking a careful look at copyright regimes as the technology for copying material changes. But at the same time, it is important to make sure copyright is a method for encouraging innovation, and is not used to squelch it. Policy makers must think carefully as they consider changes to European copyright law.

For ECIS’ response to the European Commission’s public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules, please click here.

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We read with interest the European Commission’s Memo of 15 October on secure Cloud computing services in Europe, and entirely agree that the “fundamental principle at stake is the need to look beyond borders”. We strongly endorse its opposition to building a “Fortress Europe.”

As more and more commerce moves to the Internet, consumers and businesses of every size rely on the benefits of seamless, cross-border information flows – within the EU, and between the EU and other regions.

Films, music, electronic books, taxicab dispatching, financial services, social media and telecommunications are only the starting point: responsible creation, access, and use of data in the cloud are essential to a vast array of sectors – from manufacturers to on-line retailers, and from logistics and transportation services to architects and designers. All rely on data to boost innovation, efficiency and competitiveness.

An open, global trading system has been beneficial both to Europe and the world economy. In the same way that the EU’s internal market for physical goods and services remains open to external trade, so should an internal market for the cloud permit data flows beyond Europe’s borders. At a time when the European Union and United States are trying to dismantle regulatory barriers to commerce through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), protectionism is no more appropriate for the cloud than it is for cars, chemicals and cameras.

Concerns about cloud security must be dealt with, but the solution is not to demand localised server and data storage across the board – these would stifle growth by choking the flow of data in and out of Europe. If Europe were to require localisation of data, it would set a precedent for other regions that may follow suit, damaging growth opportunities for European cloud service providers.

The cloud is no longer a novelty, but an integral part of European business. Geographic limits will deprive EU enterprises of global opportunities and curtail the growth of the digital sector.

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