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Mapping Session results: Selecting your cloud infrastructure in Europe

At GigaOM’s Structure event in London last week we hosted a lively session on the requirements for cloud infrastructure in Europe. We asked if U.S. giants like Amazon Microsoft and Google, with scale, price and innovation advantages, will dominate the region, or whether European cloud providers offering more localized services would prevail.

GigaOM’s Mapping Sessions are highly interactive, tapping the collective wisdom of our analysts and other thought leaders in the market sector of interest. Our session in London was no exception and illuminated some key requirements for cloud providers to be successful in Europe.

Location, location, location

It’s an obvious one, but session participants couldn’t emphasis enough the importance of data center location from a network performance standpoint. If you are connecting to applications and services resident in the cloud, the further away those resources are, the more likely you are to experience poor performance due to network latency. Conversely, locate the apps close to the users, and bingo. It’s a much nicer experience for everyone.

The trend toward building data centers in the Nordics came up during the discussion about network performance, as while this region offers cheap power, it is also not as close to the business and financial centers of Europe, from a connectivity perspective. Employees from Greenqloud, based in Iceland, were in the session and countered that their customers are located all over Europe and do not have connectivity problems. Presumably anyone running mission critical apps in Greenqloud is using private lines and bypassing the Internet.

Location was also important from a compliance and regulatory standpoint and to meet local billing and taxation requirements, attendees said.

Ultimately, attendees concluded that if hybrid cloud is going to work in Europe, where application components can be in the cloud, in your data center, across multiple clouds, or across cloud and data center, it’s going to be paramount that the network be highly available, flexible and able to connect resources in multiple different geographies.

Interoperability

Data portability across clouds came up several times as an important capability expected of cloud providers in Europe. Given there is already a larger number of smaller players in Europe this makes sense.  Moreover, attendees noted that there is a perception that smaller providers are a riskier bet from a longevity and stability standpoint and therefore the ability to migrate to another provider was important.  For cloud providers it means offering an open API and supporting tools like Chef and Puppet to make it easier to connect, configure and migrate resources across different clouds.  Attendees noted that there was plenty of scope for existing cloud providers to offer greater visibility into the APIs that already exist and to offer more consistency in how they work, to make developers’ lives easier.

Security

It’s an obvious one in the weeks and months after the NSA spying program was revealed – but security and privacy was just a given, attendees said. Encryption, authorization controls and authentication services should be baked in to all cloud services.  Without that, corporations in Germany, for example, will simply ignore public cloud, attendees said.

Simplicity and ease of use

Often in conflict with tighter security, ease of use came up as an important factor for success. And in this realm, session participants noted, competitors to Amazon Web Services have lots of opportunity. AWS is notoriously esoteric. Configuring an “m1 large instance” on Amazon’s cloud involves a steep learning curve!

Cloud providers in the running

Cloud providers in Europe that met some of these criteria, according to participants in our Mapping Session, were GreenQloud, Interoute, SoftLayer (owned by IBM), CloudSigma, IOMart, Memset and Rackspace. They noted that no one adequately meets all of these objectives, yet.

Feedback

We’d love to continue the conversation we started in London! What have we missed that will be key to driving the cloud market in Europe over the next few years?

Look for a Sector RoadMap in the coming months that will sharpen our take on the opportunities in the European cloud market.

Mapping session panelists:

Paul Miller, Founder, Cloud of Data and Analyst, GigaOM Research

Rene Buest, Principal Analyst, New Age Disruption and Analyst, GigaOM Research

Jon Collins, Founder, Inter Orbis, Analyst, GigaOM Research

Jo Maitland, Research Director, GigaOM Research