IT industry best at setting standards, says EU Commissioner

Consensus needed on standards in the cloud says EU

European regulators on Thursday called for help from the IT industry in setting standards in the cloud.

"At the moment clouds are not as interoperable as they could be. Cloud providers need to do better and cloud users need to demand more," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes at the launch of the European Commission Cloud Computing Strategy.

"There are many standards, but no consensus today -- we need to move closer to consensus on some reasonable sets of standards to ensure interoperability, data portability and reversibility," she said.

Standards are essential in order to allow different platforms and services to work together. The Commission, the European Union's executive body and chief regulatory authority, fears that without certified standards, cloud technology may develop in a way that "lacks interoperability, data portability and reversibility, all crucial for the avoidance of lock-in." Users want to be sure that they can take their data out at any time and transfer it to a new provider.

The Commission also believes that certified standards would also allow both procurers and service providers to be confident that they have met any legal compliance obligations.

However, the Commission doesn't want more standards, per se, it actually wants fewer standards, but used more widely. In addition, the Commission "doesn't propose to make any technical standards mandatory," said Kroes.

The plan is to assess the existing standards and work out which represent best practice. The industry is best at coming up with standards and has done so already said Kroes, "so why do something, if someone else can do it better? But just because a standard is written, doesn't mean it is used."

Under the Cloud Computing Strategy, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) will work with stakeholders to identify "a detailed map of the necessary standards for security, interoperability, data portability and reversibility" by 2013.

The Commission will also publish a complete list of voluntary certification schemes by 2014.

Although business will not be forced to use these standards, Kroes hopes that market forces will be enough to encourage businesses to use the certified standards.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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