HANNOVER, Germany-Cloud computing was the theme of this year's CeBIT show. So it was a little strange when the most lucid description of what cloud computing is all about and how it affects Germany along with the rest of Europe came not from the assembled technologists, nor even from the CEO of IBM, but rather from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
This is not to suggest that it's strange that Merkel should know what cloud computing is. After all, she is a highly regarded scientist in her own right. What's strange is that there seems to be so little clarity elsewhere.
Merkel's remarks came at the opening ceremonies of CeBIT where others tried to get their respective oars in the water first. Dr. August-Wilhelm Scheer, president of BITKOM, which is Germany's Federal Association for Information Technology, tried to explain why businesses shouldn't fear the cloud. But he never really explained what it was they weren't supposed to be worried about.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave cloud computing a passing mention before launching into a tirade on European Visa policy, clearly embarrassing Merkel. IBM President and CEO Sam Palmisano avoided the issue completely and instead talked about Watson and the "Jeopardy!" television game show-a topic that apparently was unfamiliar to everyone in the audience except the relatively few U.S. visitors.
So the result was that the main theme of the trade show got only a short explanation on why Europeans shouldn't fear the cloud or even care about it along with a bare-bones explanation of what the cloud actually is. It's probably not surprising that European business and political leaders are dubious about the future of cloud computing.
The press conferences and seminars on cloud computing illustrated the issue more clearly than words ever could. When Microsoft held its massive press conference on its new cloud products, the topics started off with "What is the Cloud?" and "What is Cloud Computing." The technology was being presented in terms for third-graders instead of being presented on solid business terms that the conference attendees might relate to.
Unfortunately, there's more to the problem with the adoption of cloud computing in Europe than clueless vendors and vague worries. European business leaders have to contend with the EU's privacy rules that very specifically forbid moving personally identifiable information about European citizens outside of Europe. That means, for example, that a cloud service provider has to make sure that the servers in use have to be inside the EU if that sort of information is going to be stored there.