The European Union has called for an open and standardised approach to cloud computing techology at the opening of a new Microsoft cloud centre in Brussels.
Speaking at yesterday's event, Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner with responsibility for the Digital Agenda, hailed the dawn of a "computing era of unprecedented flexibility and economies of scale" but warned that there was much work to be done to ensure European businesses exploit the opportunities properly.
"It is going to take partnership between industry and government, and European leadership, to ensure Europe is not merely open or friendly to cloud providers, but that there is a European effort to actively create the best environment for all parties," said Kroes.
"Interoperability is an issue I take very seriously," she said. "To offer a true utility in a truly competitive digital single market, users must be able to change their cloud provider easily.
"International standardisation efforts will also have a huge impact on cloud computing. Open specifications are a key in creating competitive and flourishing markets that deliver what customers need."
The EU is currently putting the finishing touches to a consultation process over the development of a pan-European cloud strategy, which will take place in late May.
Microsoft, meanwhile, plans to spend 90% of a multi-billion dollar R&D budget on cloud technologies and sees its new centre as an important piece in developing a cloud computing strategy for Europe as a whole.
"We are asking European governments and businesses to help drive cloud computing forward, given the clear opportunity it presents for increased efficiency, flexibility and innovation not just within individual organisations but also in creating new opportunities for the entire region," said Microsoft International president Jean-Philippe Courtois.