Amazon’s Werner Vogels: Cloud services must empower the customer

Werner Vogels

We are rapidly entering into an era where massive computing power, digital storage and global network connections can be deployed by anyone as quickly and easily as turning on the light. This is the promise – and the reality – of cloud computing which is driving tremendous change in the technology industry and transforming how we do business in Europe and around the world.

Europe’s fastest growing start-ups, like Hailo, JustEat and WeTransfer, some of the largest enterprises, like Royal Dutch Shell, SAP and Unilever, governments, education and research institutes, all are using cloud technologies to innovate faster and better serve their customers and the citizens of Europe.

The Centre for Economic and Business Research computed the cumulative economic effects of cloud between 2010 and 2015 in the five largest European economies alone to be around €763bn (£623bn). IDC notes the cloud economy is growing by more than 20% and could generate nearly €1tn (£0.82tn) in GDP and 4m jobs by 2020. This is so significant that Europe’s policymakers want to enable economic success with cloud computing.

The European commission has taken the lead in this discussion. It set up the European Cloud Partnership (ECP) to recommend how to promote and shape cloud computing in the region. As a member of the steering board of the ECP, I feel privileged to contribute to this important work.

With the recent publication of the ECP’s Trusted Cloud Europe vision, I wanted to give my view about what’s needed to continue to drive adoption of cloud across Europe. I believe that what is needed for cloud to be successful relates to Europe’s core values. As a Dutchman, I hold these values in close regard – such as the right to a fair and democratic society and a strong protection of privacy and freedom. Cloud – done right – enables broad expression and realisation of these values.

For cloud computing to be successful in Europe, providers must hold exceeding customer needs as a core value. This is about putting the power in the hands of the customer. This means the freedom to walk away at any time when customers don’t get the service that they expect. For too long customers have been locked in to long-term service contracts and expensive software licensing fees. Being customer focused means ridding European organisations of these handcuffs and democratising technology so that anyone has access to the same, world-class technology services on demand.

Some antiquated thinking is attempting to undermine the important work that the ECP is doing. In some corners there are calls to develop a cloud framework in Europe to protect vested interests and the way that IT “used to be”, disguised as cloud. I disagree and think this goes against the ethos of the ECP, that cloud should serve the customers and citizens of Europe, not shareholders of technology companies. Focusing on lowering prices will boost the economy and prosperity of local businesses as more capital can be allocated to innovation. As a result of this we are already seeing centres of excellence emerging in London, Berlin and Barcelona that are beginning to rival Silicon Valley. If we focus cloud on lowering the barrier of entry and cost of failure we will see more companies experimenting and exploring things previously not possible. More experimentation ultimately drives more innovation.

Another core value is putting data protection, ownership, and control, in the hands of cloud users. It is essential that customers own and control their data at all times. Customers, governments and businesses, large and small alike, have concerns about this. If they are not addressed, they will undermine the pervasive adoption of cloud and the resulting benefits to European businesses. At Amazon Web Services (AWS) we decided on day one to put control in the hands of our customers. They own the data – they choose where to store it. European customers using the AWS cloud can choose to keep their data in Europe.

Cloud computing must benefit the many, not the few. We have seen this with the rapid rise of the internet. We will also see this with cloud if we put the power in the hands of the customer. I echo the ECP’s call to focus the cloud policy framework on customers and removing barriers and restrictions to adoption. This will pave the way to increased prosperity of European businesses and provide access to high quality, secure, and trustworthy cloud services across Europe.