Setting up the European Cloud Partnership

+Neelie Kroes has proposed the setting up of a European Cloud Partnership. In general, I strongly support this effort but I have some specific comments to make.

The goal is to encourage competition and to prevent lock-in. This is essential for the formation of competitive markets in this space and will help both promote the industry and develop future industries.This goal is exceptionally positive.

The standards themselves will be limited to common requirements. For utility provision, which after all is about provision of ubiquitous and well defined activities (such as infrastructure) then this goal is admirable.

Lastly and most importantly, +Neelie Kroes discusses the need for reference implementations to be built. This is singularly the most critical part of the process and the means by which competitive markets will be formed.

The reference implementation should be nothing less than the bedrock of this effort. It represents the standard by which semantic interoperability between different providers can be achieved.

The reference implementation however cannot be a specification, due to the potential for alternative interpretations and hence the introduction of difference and lock-in. The reference implementation has to be running code which compliance is testable against.

It's important that such running code is operational i.e. anyone can implement and run the reference model both privately and commercially. Of course, there is ample opportunity for people to make operational improvements to the reference implementation but in order to comply to the reference implementation it must be exact in terms of interface and functional operation. Any delta, more or less, would be counter to the goal of functioning markets and reducing lock-in.

Furthermore, it also important that the reference model is free from interference or control by any party. Hence the code must be entirely open source and safe harbour provision granted against all forms of intellectual property challenge in Europe.

With such a reference model, then companies can elect to become providers of the reference model or to implement proprietary versions with operational improvements that comply to the reference model. It is also essential for competition that there should be no mandatory requirement for any operational improvements to be released to the market. This is what the SaaS loophole and GPLv3 was created for.

With an open source reference model as the standard, this will not only create a competitive market but introduce opportunities for rating, monitoring and assurance bodies to ensure compliance to the reference model whilst allowing for proprietary improvements in operation.

Should such a path be followed then :-

* the needs of the market to be free from constraint and undue influence
* he needs of the providers to be free to make operational improvements and compete on efficiency and quality of service
* the needs of the consumers to be free to choose and switch providers

...will all be met. Along with this new industries will form rapidly.

This is a unique moment and +Neelie Kroes has made a bold move. Whether it will turn out for the good hinges on this one issue.

Should this path not be followed, then this will not reduce lock-in and truly competitive market will be unlikely to form. Instead we'll see more of a captured or constrained market much to the detriment of the economy as a whole.

There will of course be intense lobbying by those who do not wish to compete in an open market. Alongside this, open standards (as in specification of APIs and Data formats alone) will be promoted as a compromise.

Any experience of computing history will tell you that for such a complex issue, those specifications and their interpretation will just create the lock-in that +Neelie Kroes wishes to avoid.

Many years ago I sent an email to Eben Moglen asking that the GPLv3 on its launch should include the SaaS loophole. The above was the reason why and I also why I repeated over all these years the message of the importance of GPLv3 in the cloud.

This is a single focus around which the future of cloud in Europe will revolve. Success will usher in a new wave of creation and the formation of a strong industry. Failure to make those reference models the standard for compliance and open sourced under GPLv3 will condemn Europe to islands of clouds and captured markets.

I deeply understand the importance of SOPA / PIPA and other legislation on competition. However, this single issue for Europe is of equal importance.

The ripple effects of this are immense.

I'll watch this with intense interest. The future economic interests of Europe will be strongly influenced by this one, seemingly trivial matter.
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