Cloud Services Reach High On Europe’s Radar To Boost Economy

She may not be convinced of the name, but “cloud” computing has risen close to top of European Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes’ 2012 agenda as a way to boost the bloc’s struggling economies.

In January, Kroes, who is also Europe’s information society commissioner, assembled local public agencies and private companies in a €10 million European Cloud Partnership to lay groundwork for moving government agencies’ IT systems to the cloud.

At Cable Congress in Brussels on Thursday, Kroes said boldly: “It’s where the future will be.”

Now, independent EU debate organiser Forum Europe has convened policymakers and executives from companies including Dell, VMWare and Intel (NSDQ: INTC) at The 2012 European Cloud Computing Conference to develop the continent’s cloud strategy on March 21.

Of course, private-sector internet companies are already rolling out services that host data in remote, “cloud”-based data centres. Why is the European Commission intervening, and what does it think is to gain?

For one, the cloud dovetails neatly with a parallel Kroes is pushing – harmonising Europe’s many and varied telecoms and copyright licensing rules to let online services more easily license content to rent and sell across member states’ national borders.

“The cloud is the perfect way to introduce legal content offers online,” said Kroes, who thinks small- and medium-sized enterprises stand to benefit most because cloud services can be cheaper than alternatives: “Our flagging economies need us to make the best of it – we need to act to ensure speedy uptake.

“With many other technologies, we’ve seen problems getting in the way – fragmentation, lock-in, and public sector ineffectiveness. The cloud computing strategy I’m currently preparing will anticipate those problems so we can prevent them. Where these barriers exist, I am determined to overcome them.”

Kroes sought to re-assure private cloud suppliers and Big Government opponents: “The Cloud Partnership, and indeed our overall cloud computing strategy, is not about building a European super-cloud.”

We’ll be addressing some of these themes at GigaOm’s Structure:Europe conference, October 16-17, in Amsterdam. Registration is opening soon.