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Summary:

We all know Europe’s a bit behind the curve on cloud, but that’s not the only reason the fast-growing IaaS platform is finding the going tougher there than elsewhere.

Chris Kemp
photo: David Meyer

The vendor-led OpenStack convoy is gathering pace. As Chris Kemp, NASA’s former CTO and now the head of OpenStack-based appliance firm Nebula, laid it out today at Cloud Expo Europe in London, the infrastructure-as-a-service project has more than half a million downloads and can count thousands of members from more than 850 companies in 88 countries.

Chinese adoption of OpenStack is growing particularly quickly, and the United States and India are doing well too, he said. But Europe? Not so much — yet.

Why is that? Well, one of the answers is entirely predictable: Europe is just a bit behind the curve when it comes to cloud adoption.

“My sense that there’s probably a bit more of a conservative attitude towards change and adoption of new technology here,” Kemp told me. “If you look at folks that are leading IT at a lot of America’s largest companies, there’s a lot of competition, a lot of folks encouraging people to take risks. We’re seeing more people in U.S. companies understand how to make apps work in a very reliable way, even on unreliable infrastructure, because the big internet companies there haven’t had a choice.

“There’s a cultural desire here to have more control over infrastructure. I think private cloud will be bigger in Europe than in the U.S. in the medium term.”

But that’s not the only reason. There’s another factor that seems backward given the first: it appears OpenStack, just a couple of years old, is feeling the effects of being a relative latecomer to this particular market.

“It’s a function of some of the earlier cloud technologies getting an earlier start here,” Kemp said. “Eucalyptus made an early run at Europe, and then there’s the OpenNebula project.”

Marten Mickos Eucalyptus Systems Chris Kemp OpenStack Sameer Dholakia Citrix Structure 2012

(L to R) Jo Maitland, GigaOM; Chris Kemp, CEO Nebula and co-founder, OpenStack; Sameer Dholakia, Group VP and GM, Citrix; Marten Mickos, CEO, Eucalyptus Systems<br />(c)2012 Pinar Ozger pinar@pinarozger.com

That’s not to say Kemp, who’s naturally very bullish on OpenStack, thinks the market isn’t ripe for takeover. Particularly regarding OpenNebula, the one big European contender in this space, he was pretty scornful of that rival’s attempt to target the enterprise by adding an open-source service layer on top of its core product.

“You want interoperability, portability and a large ecosystem of tools that all work together at the end of the day – that’s especially what enterprises want,” he said. “The world doesn’t have enough attention for five cloud ecosystems. If you’re EMC or NetApp, are they working on an OpenNebula driver? Where are the OpenNebula conferences? If it’s not there, they’ve already lost this round.”

But let’s pull back here and consider whether this rivalry really matters. To a certain extent, according to cloud strategy researcher Simon Wardley, it doesn’t – he sees deeper issues facing the putative cloud service provider industry in Europe.

“The issues about public or private, or which stack to adopt, are all whats, hows and whens. There’s not enough of the why,” he told me. “These are implementation details and they are, to me, secondary to strategy.”

“In Silicon Valley there’s a lot more thinking about how you manipulate the value chain to compete. For example, if I’m a bank, should I be providing banking as a cloud? It’s that level of strategic play which is important. Most people [in Europe] are thinking about using the cloud because everyone else is doing it: they’re not thinking strategically about using IT as a weapon against others.”

  1. Gabriele Bozzi Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    Europe is not behind the curve, not by choice at least.
    The view of Chris Kemp doesn’t take in account that Europe is not an unique context when it comes to Information Management. Few over the pond understand the fragmentation and governance diversity across the national boundaries within the EU.
    I agree with Simon Wardley, there is no competitive spin to cloud adoption because Europe does not encourages market competition by design.

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  2. Bruno Lima - ® Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    I have noticed that here in Europe people are very conservative as the platform change or migration to a new technology. For me that came from Brazil to Europe, has been a major barrier to convince IT managers determined that Open Source technologies in general are mature, reliable and secure.
    I also believe that the lack of skilled labor in new technologies is also a factor that may contribute to this curve in Europe since the financial crisis, the level of investment in training in the company was reduced drastically.

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  3. Jurgen Thoelen Tuesday, January 29, 2013

    I do not think we can deny that Europe is indeed behind and the 2 key points have been listed: fragmentation of the market which raises quite a few legal and other issues to be solved and indeed the absence of real strategic thinking how Cloud could make a company more competitive and agile. Especially on this last point the responsibility is as much on the side of the Cloud providers where we need to show this type of use cases to all levels of the company: IT but especially CFO, CMO, COO, Heads of Sales,… as it is especially these last functions which will drive uptake when they see a benefit.

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  4. I disagree with Chris’s vision. There are several enablers for cloud adoption:

    1) Good environment to invest in innovation
    2) A lack of infrastructures
    3) Strong economy growth

    USA adopts cloud mainly because 1)
    Latinoamérica adopts cloud mainly because 2) and 3)
    Asia adopts cloud mainly because 3) and 2)

    Europe is not a good place for innovation, and we must admit it’s mature in terms of infrastructures, so the reason for slow cloud adoption is the weak or non-existent economy growth and lack of affinity for innovation.

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