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Clouds of data over Europe

Europe celebrated the penetration of cloud computing services with a distributed conference across 14 countries all at once on May 23 and showed that all engines are turned on to make the cloud available for all – even in Hungary.  

If it's IT, it's happening in the US, so it could be considered a real success story if something is happening outside of the Silicon Valley-based ecosystem. Building an institutional background around cloud computing is an idea that jumped this barrier and in a very short time EuroCloud has become visible on a worldwide level.

“It is the ultimate goal of all organizations,” said Zoltán Bellák, president of EuroCloud Hungary in his opening speech of the event, “to have such a fast success in implementation of its idea.” Indeed, the parent organization was founded two years ago and in this timeframe, a lot has been achieved, including the forming of several local organizations Europe-wide and the announcement of the European Cloud Partnership strategy by European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes earlier this year in Davos.

In a distributed online appearance at the conference, Kroes highlighted again that cloud computing, with already more than $400 billion of revenue last year, can in fact “change the way we do business.” The access to unlimited content anywhere on any device is something SMB's and public administration can benefit the most of. However, the VP also made it clear that there are still problems ahead, especially regarding concerns of protecting data when the cloud crosses borders.

The fact that 90% of cloud users have no idea of liability whatsoever puts barriers on a market of huge growth potential, Kroes said. In its cloud computing strategy, Europe works on leveraging the market for public sector, look through all the policies that are relevant for the cloud, create a package of stimulation to promote market growth and agree on a common global framework “to make sure the cloud doesn't happen to Europe but with Europe.”

After Kroes's speech, it was time for the Hungarian experts to speak up. Gábor Poros of Fujitsu Siemens Hungary talked about whether a cloud is a revolution: he concluded that beyond technology, cloud computing is more of a new business model that enhances competitiveness and helps save costs, making it a new way of creating values. Fujitsu itself invested €1.2 billion in cloud related development in 2011: in data centers, application development platforms, M2M solutions and IT security. “Changes of great consequence happen fast, so chances have to be snatched as quickly as possible,” Poros added.

If a strategy is a way forward, was largely disputed by panel members of the first roundtable, although it can be appropriate to put an end to common fears. One of the major areas to implement cloud solutions could be the administration: with its 20-30% of share of the IT market, it is not at all indifferent where this money is spent. The central administration could set an example by expanding the market - that is slowly growing to HUF 1.6 billion – and it could have a significant multiplicator effect, panelists agreed.

Government's IT development agency rep actually informed the audience about a pilot project the results of which will serve as a base for a proper regulation and hopefully lead to an implementable strategy. There are opportunities for the cloud in taxation and its system testing as well, according to Iván Futó, advisor at the National Tax and Customs Authority.

After another distributed presentation by SAP's Rainer Zunow, showing how one of the largest global software companies has changed its direction of development, another roundtable of Hungarian business experts discussed the investment opportunities in the cloud. Panelists agreed that of the three I's to produce business success stories, Hungary definitely has innovation and investment as well, surprising as is, but the EU's Jeremie funds really opened up a way for innovative companies.

Incubation, on the other hand, is still in its infancy, although there are several promising initiatives countrywide. For cloud businesses, the recession adds up as another factor to boost success. “The market is excellent now: there is no better time for the cloud,” as Dávid Szabó, regional cloud strategy advisor for Microsoft said. Szabó added however, that startups need to keep in mind that to make their way they have to think global and know what their competetive advantage is.

The event also hosted the first Hungarian EuroCloud Award ceremony, with first prizes in two and special prizes in four other categories. The Best Cloud Service Product prize went to Mobile Engine while the Best Business Case of the commercial sector was Telenor's Origami Group case. Elastoffice got Best Startup prize for its virtualized enterprise management software, Hungarian Water Rescue Association won the Cloud User category, Nexon got Best Transformed Service to Cloud prize for its project with Tesco and Central Europe On-Demand was awarded the prize for the Strongest International Impact. Anikó Jóri-Molnár