Cloud Power in Europe
There are clouds on the horizon in Brussels, and European technology leaders couldn’t be happier. On March 22, Microsoft inaugurated its new Cloud and Interoperability Center (CIC) in the Belgian capital—the heart of the European Union’s (EU) institutions—underscoring Microsoft’s and the EU’s commitment to the potential of cloud-computing innovation and growth across Europe. With a mission of promoting interoperability and collaboration to make the most of information technology, the CIC will showcase the latest cloud solutions in such areas as education, health, and e-government; it will also foster advanced research projects on cloud computing and interoperability. The CIC will provide much needed support for public-sector organizations and small and midsized businesses as they explore and adopt cloud technology and create their own innovative solutions.
By offering a platform to experience cloud technology and share resources and knowledge, the CIC will act as both an incubator and catalyst for cloud computing in Europe. The CIC will host up to 15 cloud-based solutions, such as the Fire Risk Prevention system (previously called the Virtual Fire system) demo. Fire Risk Prevention demonstrates a cloud-based tool that uses analyses of metrological data, vegetation, and topographic models to predict wildfire risks anywhere on the Greek island of Lesvos. This application was initiated by the University of Aegean in cooperation with Microsoft Research Connections Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) and further developed by the European Microsoft Innovation Center (EMIC). Fire Risk Prevention is supported by VENUS-C, a collaboration that was established by Microsoft Research Connections EMEA and co-funded by the European Commission that involves scientific and technical partners across Europe. We anticipate that several other applications soon will be demonstrated on the VENUS-C platform, resulting from the conclusion of an open call that elicited more than 60 proposals.
Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission that is responsible for the EU Digital Agenda, gave the keynote speech at the CIC opening. Her address discussed the European Cloud Computing Strategy and the importance of such ventures as the CIC. She also showed a series of interactive demos, including the impressive Fire Risk Prevention system.
During a transatlantic videoconference, Kroes congratulated Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer on the opening of the CIC and welcomed the focus on interoperability and standards. “This gives me confidence that Microsoft and other cloud providers and users will contribute constructively to my work on a European cloud-computing strategy. All together we can tackle the challenges we face today and get the most out of this technology,” observed Kroes.
Jean-Philippe Courtois, president of Microsoft International, also spoke at the CIC opening. Courtois stressed Microsoft’s belief “that there’s never been a more important time to invest in accelerating cloud adoption,” and highlighted the investment in the opening of the Microsoft Innovation Center (MIC) in Brussels. He spoke about the value of cloud computing for small and midsized businesses, including startups, where it can provide enterprise-level computing power without prohibitive infrastructure investments. In the same vein, Courtois noted how cloud computing can drive productivity improvements and cost savings that will help budget-constrained governments address such societal challenges as health, education, research, and the environment.
All in all, it was a grand celebration of a bright day—incongruously brought on by clouds!
—Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA