Hundreds of cloud computing purveyors (or would-be purveyors) and customers gathered in Amsterdam last week to discuss the state of cloud computing in Europe at GigaOM’s Structure Europe conference, our first foray onto the continent. In case you missed it, here are the top lessons that attendees learned.
1: Facebook bids adieu to HP, Dell, server OEMs. Facebook really is parting ways with traditional hardware OEMs. The company’s Swedish data center in Luleå will be its first to use “100 percent non-OEM” servers, Jay Parikh, Facebook’s VP of infrastructure engineering told Structure Europe attendees. That is bad news for the likes of Dell and HP, which compete aggressively for this kind of scale-out business.
“We have to fine-tune performance given the scale and real-time nature of our application,” Parikh said. “We want to push forward aggressively not only on the user experience but all the underlying pieces of infrastructure to support it. We can iterate with the hardware we’re designing and deploying. Most of the time it’s cheaper and consumers less energy. It’s better for the environment and better for us, gives us more flexibility.”
2: Europeans are cloud paranoics. The widespread contention that cloud adoption is slower in Europe than in the U.S. was reinforced by several speakers. One reason: Europeans are more wary of outsourcing than Americans. Another: They’re not wild about putting their data on a U.S.-based cloud given concerns over the USA Patriot Act and right now the major cloud services providers are U.S.-based, said Christian Echeyne, director of IT infrastructure technologies and engineering for Orange Business Services.
Ditlev Bredahl, CEO of OnApp agreed that cloud is a much harder sell in Europe because people view the term with distrust. “If you want to sell cloud in Europe, call it something else,” he said.
3: European cloud adoption is fragmented but coming. It’ll be tough for one huge cloud player to dominate in Europe the way Amazon has in North America, said Marten Mickos, CEO of Eucalyptus, an open-source cloud company. “There is too much fragmentation, too many local players. And, when companies here grow up, they tend to go global… pan-European companies don’t happen often.”
“It takes an American company to build a pan-European brand,” he said. There are lots of soft drink companies across Europe but most of them remain local. For a pan-European brand, look at Coke, he said.
4: Cloud plus big data equals big opportunity. Cloud computing is a natural for storing reams of big data. But getting that data in and out of the cloud is tricky — and can be expensive. Ask anyone about their Amazon data transfer charges if you don’t believe this.
Transporting all that big data can overwhelm traditional transport protocols like TCP, said Michelle Munson, co-founder and CEO of Aspera. Her company addresses that problem by providing a layer above TCP to facilitate fast transfers and makes that data — video for example — easier for cloud systems to ingest.
Once the transport problem is addressed, the floodgates are open for new sorts of big data processing applications, she said.
5: Amazon intends to be the Amazon of Europe. There was much speculation about what, if any, cloud provider could emerge to be the Amazon of Europe, given the aforementioned fragmented nature of the European market. Many agreed with the contention (see number 3 above) that it’s unlikely that a single player will replicate that heft — but that national telcos and big service providers will serve up cloud services.
It was clear from Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, however, that he sees no reason to cede the top spot. He promised a range of unnamed “unbelievable” services to come from Amazon. He said he sees no hesitancy among European businesses including financial institutions who seem to trust Amazon Web Services just fine with their workloads, thank you very much.
6: The cloud is open source — so far. While there’s been no Linus Torvalds of cloud, it’s safe to say that the foundation of today’s cloud computing infrastructure is open source — XEN virtualization, new-age MongoDB or Cassandra databases. And, of course, various flavors of Linux underly everything. There are four healthy contenders in open-source cloud platforms — CloudStack, Eucalyptus, OpenNebula and OpenStack.
7: Wercker’s SaaS deployment tool takes Launchpad prize. Amsterdam home-town team Wercker won the inaugural Structure: Europe Launchpad competition. Wercker is building a SaaS-based continuous deployment system to keep up with the hyperactive pace of webscale development — where companies can develop and release hundreds — or more — software updates per day.
“Customers have trouble deploying code across a global footprint, everyone who’s doing development can benefit from this,” said Launchpad judge Sam Johnston, Equinix’ director of cloud and IT services.
Check out the Launchpad demos and judge’s discussion in the video below: