Derrick Harris | gigaom

It’s not home to Google, Amazon or Facebook, but from plucky entrepreneurs to the world’s most-advanced computing systems, Europe has a lot more to offer the world of cloud computing and web infrastructure than might meet the eye. Here are seven reasons why it matters.

Cloud computing tends to be a very North America-centric topic, if only because so many of the biggest providers of cloud resources and services are based in the United States. That’s fair enough — the business side of things is very important — but other continents, particularly Europe, have a lot more to bring to the table than just seemingly restrictive data privacy laws.

We’ll discuss many of the finer points of European cloud computing and web infrastructure at our Structure: Europe event Oct. 16 and 17 in Amsterdam, both business and technological. To whet your appetite, though, here are seven reasons why Europe is a lot more important than many people might think.

1. Clean, innovative energy

Northern Europe is turning out to be a testing ground for some of the most-innovative data center designs around thanks to its cool temperatures and abundant supply of renewable energy. Most notably, there’s Google’s seawater-cooled facility in Finland, and Facebook’s hydropowered plant in Sweden. Iceland is popular too, hosting Verne Global’s 100-percent renewable converted NATO hangar, and home to GreenQloud — a cloud provider running wholly within Verne Global’s facility and another all-clean data center by Thor Datacenter.

2. Eastern Europe’s talent pool

Eastern Europe has become an important geography for the IT world in general, boasting a glut of programmers, software engineers and other workers with skills that today’s companies really need. Not only is the region a hotbed for outsourcing, but it’s also the home to a growing number entrepreneurs doing innovative cloud and big data startups. Among them is Nginx, the popular web server created and since commercialized by Moscow resident Igor Sysoev .

3. London’s financial center

There are probably many reasons Dublin, Ireland, is emerging as a data center hotspot — including acting as the European homebase for Amazon Web Services’ and Microsoft’s cloud businesses — and one of them is almost certainly to be as close as possible to London without having to deal with that city’s severe power shortage. But London is an important market, especially when it comes to the financial world, an industry that spends billions on IT each year and that cloud computing providers want desperately to tap into.


One really needn’t say more than “Tim Berners-Lee” when describing CERN’s influence on cloud computing, because the cloud as we know it wouldn’t be possible without the web. But CERN also created a little thing called the Large Hadron Collider, which aside from discovering the Higgs boson, is the impetus of possibly the world’s most-impressive research network — spanning dozens of countries and supercomputers worldwide and generating around a petabyte of data per second. CERN is a big supporter of open source cloud efforts, including OpenStack, OpenNebula and the Helix Nebula research cloud in Europe.

5. OpenNebula

Led by Spanish computer scientist Ignacio Llorente, OpenNebula is a fairly popular open source cloud platform that rivals the work being done, largely in the United States, by the OpenStack and CloudStack projects. The project has been around since 2005, and claims a handful of large companies and European research institutions as users. Although it doesn’t have the big-name backers of the other two, it should remain viable for a long time because of its rather large user base.

6. One-third of Twitter’s firehose

DataSift, which is headquartered in Reading, England, is one of three companies (along with Gnip and Topsy) certified to resell the all the billions of data points streaming from Twitter every day. Social media, and Twitter especially, are a huge focus of corporate analytics efforts, and anyone that can capture and analyze all the world’s tweets is a kind of a big deal.

7. Individual rights

American cloud providers might not always agree with the European Union and its individual countries when it comes to data governance laws, but every country’s citizens should pay European governments some respect. Their regulations on data privacy — such as the prohibition on Facebook’s facial-recognition feature in Germany — help keep privacy in the forefront of companies’ minds as we release more and more personal info to web-based services.

Privacy image courtesy of Flickr user striatic.


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