No one knows the needs of European businesses and consumers better than the Europeans themselves, writes Kim Gagné.
Kim Gagné is the executive director of the European Cloud Alliance
It was heartening to see Microsoft embrace that truth when confronted with concerns that its licensing practices were impeding some small European hosters from developing their businesses as they believe best. Rather than dismiss those concerns as simply the complaints of less successful players in the commercial marketplace, Microsoft met with the hosters, listened to their problems, and pledged to address them through changes to its practices.
Such responsiveness should be the hallmark of hyperscalers’ engagement with the European cloud ecosystem.
Small and medium-sized enterprises are the engines of economic growth in Europe. SMEs represent 99 per cent of all businesses in the EU and drive employment and innovation. Still, only 40 per cent of SMEs in the EU currently use cloud computing services. The potential benefits of upscaling are enormous.
For European SMEs and economies to realise such benefits, they need to take advantage of the extensive data centre and related infrastructure investments that the hyperscalers have made. The three largest US-based hyperscalers – Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, and Google – have global operations that enable them to make the investments necessary to ensure that SMEs have access to the most powerful and secure cloud facilities in the world. Properly implemented, the relationship between the hyperscalers and the SMEs is a win-win situation for all.
Our organisation includes among its members both SMEs from across Europe and Microsoft itself, which invests in helping us foster dialogue on critical issues of cloud policy. We are “platform agnostic” since we believe that both sound public policy and innovation benefit all of Europe, regardless of the particular competitive strategies of individual companies. Our members take advantage of the full range of services available by the various hyperscalers.
Company president Brad Smith in Brussels detailed Microsoft’s response to the concerns of European cloud providers in May. Smith explained that following the emergence of the concerns, he and his team had engaged in an extensive series of meetings with not only European cloud providers but also other business leaders, companies, and associations. Based on those meetings’ feedback, Microsoft announced an initiative to provide better support for European cloud providers and a set of five principles to guide Microsoft’s cloud business across Europe.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced license changes meant as a first step in transforming the company’s European Cloud Principles into concrete actions. We issued a statement lauding the move, keying upon the fact that it resulted from Microsoft having listened to concerns raised by European companies. The changes “are the product of the kind of productive dialogue within the European cloud ecosystem that is needed to spur cloud-enabled business transformation,” we said.
The announcement was generally positively received, though Europe’s cloud ecosystem will ultimately judge the efficacy of Microsoft’s initiative. From our perspective, it can only be good that at least one hyperscaler has committed to engaging more closely with its European customers to understand their needs and priorities better. As Microsoft continues to translate its principles into concrete licensing terms and business practices, we hope that European companies’ collected wisdom will serve as the basis for European innovation and economic growth.