Phil Wainewright, a leading cloud computing analyst and colleague on ZDNet advised me he is becoming coordinator of the UK branch of EuroCloud, which officially launched just now. According to the blurbs that quote Phil:
“I’m supporting the EuroCloud initiative in the UK because it represents a tremendous opportunity to promote best practices and business benefits of SaaS and cloud services across Europe. Cloud computing is a major force for aligning IT with business requirements, delivering results faster and with greater visibility and transparency to actual IT costs. EuroCloud will raise public awareness of these benefits and accelerate adoption, helping European businesses remain competitive in today’s globally connected economy.”
Knowing Phil, I’m sure he’ll do a great job and bat hard for the things that really matter. As I’ve said before, the saas/on-demand/cloud (SOC) players have not done a great job in articulating benefits. Despite Phil’s noble words, much of the remainder of the press release falls into the bits and bytes trap coupled with tech hyperbole:
“The cloud model stands for global reach, ecosystem partnerships and integration. My goal in developing EuroCloud is to promote SaaS and cloud services and applications across Europe and encourage its take up. EuroCloud will be an accelerator of business, of technological relationships and application integration. It will represent the cloud industry in Europe — taking into account local differences — and be an excellent platform for exchanges with America or Asia,” explained Pierre-José Billotte, EuroCloud general coordinator and head of EuroCloud France.
What cloud stands for and what it can deliver are two entirely different things though I can’t deny admiration for lofty intentions. And I’m not sure if anyone amongst this group has noticed but the US has a subtle intolerance for ‘not invented here’ while Asia presents a whole rats nest of problems for innovators as John Hagel recently explained. Perhaps the establishment of a large, powerful group can move the needle on those issues. If so then that would be a massive step in the right direction.
The other problem I have is that this grouping represents a very broad church. Everything from accounting through security are represented. That will make agenda setting troublesome in some areas. For instance, the notion that cloud computing will be: ‘delivering results faster and with greater visibility and transparency‘ is an ambitious stretch across all application sub-categories. At a simplistic level, there’s a world of a difference between creating an iPhone app and baking functionality into a back end style accounting solution or developing cloud based security services. How will it parse this apparent disconnect?
And then there is the whole challenge of ‘Europe’ itself. Pierre-Jose nods to that in the quoted statement. Cross border regulation is something this grouping could usefully address yet there’s no mention in the blurbs. I hope that is corrected.
You can argue that SOC is sufficient of a category on its own to warrant the creation of a group. I’d counter by saying that’s a bit like arguing client/server needs a category. But clearly a good number of companies believe there is a need for a new trade association that spans Europe and through which the generality of cloud benefits are articulated. Given some of the advertising and promotion I’ve seen, that’s a good thing.
It always amazes me that the SOC players put forward a transformational vision yet when it comes to marketing, they repeatedly fall back on outdated, vague and competition bashing tactics. Here’s a great example: These videos from Aqilla leave me cold. Rambling, dull and almost wholly lacking substance that business can consume. They speak more loudly to the legacy from which the business owners come than the innovations the service has included. In one white paper, there’s reference to the owners’ 50+ years’ experience in accounting. Right. I’ll pit that against the 20 and 30-somethings I see who are doing innovative things in this domain. If there’s one problem I hope EuroCloud fixes, it’s that one. But it has to be done from the perspective of what customers need to hear and not what marketing thinks is right for them.
In the meantime, be prepared to be deluged with more SOC marketing. As with all things tech: trust but verify (per Ronald Reagan.)