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Knowledge gained from Structure Europe

Hundreds of purveyors (or would-be purveyors) of cloud computing and their customers gathered together last week in Amsterdam to discuss the state of the industry at the GigaOM Structure Europe conference.  Attendees were privy to a number of often surprising facts.

One of those facts is that Facebook is saying farewell to the likes of HP and Dell OEMs.  In fact, the company is bidding adieu to traditional hardware OEMs in general, with the firm’s Swedish data centre, located in Lulea, set to be the very first to get to use “100 percent non-OEM” servers, according to the Vice President of Infrastructure for Facebook, Jay Parikh.  That is particularly bad news for companies such as Dell and HP, which have to compete very aggressively for that sort of scale-out business.  “We have to fine tune performance given the scale and real time nature of our application,” Parikh added.  “We want to push forward aggressively not only on the user experience but all the underlying pieces of infrastructure to support it.  We can iterate with the hardware we’re designing and deploying.  Most of the time it’s cheaper and consumers use less energy.  It’s better for the environment and better for us, gives us more flexibility.”

Another fact learnt was that Europeans are rather paranoid when it comes to web hosting and a number of speakers reinforced the widespread perception that cloud adoption was a lot slower in Europe than has been the case in the United States.  One reason for this is that Europeans are traditionally a lot more wary of outsourcing than their US counterparts; nor are they particularly thrilled with the notion of putting their information on US-based cloud, given the worries over the USA Patriot Act, and at the moment the big cloud services providers are all based in the US.

Nonetheless, the conference gave the impression that while cloud adoption in Europe is fragmented it is still very much on its way.  The Chief Executive Officer of open-sourced cloud hosting company Eucalyptus, Marten Mickos, says that it is difficult for one big cloud player to gain domination in Europe in the manner that Amazon has been able to do in North America.  Mickos says there are too many local players and too much fragmentation, noting that pan-European companies are not common and pan-European brands are usually driven by American companies.

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