IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

EU IT Services Meeting: Cloud, Green IT and Initiatives Take Center Stage

Members of the CompTIA EU IT Services and Support Forum gathered at the Computacenter facilities in Kerpen, Germany (near Cologne) this week for a face-to-face quarterly community meeting. Attendees came from near and far (including Azerbaijan!) to discuss the latest opportunities and challenges in the technology services industry, as well as elect members to executive council positions.

As each member made their introduction, they were asked to share their reasons for attending the IT Services and Support meetings. While the majority pointed to the networking opportunities, others highlighted the educational discussions, exchanging best practices, and understanding how others deal with similar challenges and problems in different countries. 

Computacenter kicked off the event with a presentation on remote services, including the differences between outsourcing and out-tasking, how services are delivered to customers through their remote services center and when a technician needs to be contacted. At the conclusion of the presentation, participants received a guided tour of the host organization’s remote service desk, where 170 employees support customer issues 24 hours a day. Eighty of their technicians provide first line support and solve 80% of the incoming incidents without escalation. Computacenter provided quite an educational tour and attendees expressed a desire for similar types of interactive visits in future meetings.

The next part of the meeting was dominated by cloud computing, including a dialogue on the differences between private, public and hybrid clouds. Eurocloud, the European cloud computing business network, gave a compelling overview of the legal issues and data privacy concerns with SaaS technology, as its impact on traditional services business.

The first day wrapped up with a panel discussion on the future outlook of services. The lively session covered a variety of topics, including managed services, remote services, cloud computing, off-shoring and what providers can look forward to next. While all these services are ultimately linked, the border between each can be a bit hazy. For example, while Computacenter provides outsourcing services, there is disagreement on whether that is considered cloud computing. A company with its own data center could actually be a cloud provider, but there is still not a commonly accepted definition for the term.

One thing the panelists did agree on—there will be change, but what those services look like is hard to predict. Ten years ago, who could have imagined all the devices we use today? Technology is just so dynamic; it appears that we may be going back to a time before the advent of PCs with all our data stored in large database computers. While cloud computing may involve virtualization and banks of servers instead of mainframe computers, the SaaS shift is reallocating data and resources, and enabling the rapid growth of mobile computing. Though we may see traditional hardware begin to fade, remote devices seem to be replacing many of their functions at a quick pace. It’s really hard to say where services will go in the future, but it’s quite exciting!

Security was another hot topic at the meeting, especially around cloud computing. The European Data Protection Directive is currently under revision, but it does not take the cloud service delivery model into consideration. In the end, security is a question of trust. Inherently, an offsite data center takes away your customer’s control, so their confidence in you and/or your vendor partners may need to be reinforced. In order to further this trust, Eurocloud is developing a cloud accreditation for software providers, including an independent audit. CompTIA may also play an important role as global trade association with a recognized credibility, by developing a benchmark for this delivery system, which we’ll discuss later. 

The Services and Support Forum kicked off the second day with an educational presentation on the EU Services Directive, aimed at making the cross-boarding of IT services easier for providers. It is proposed that each EU country will have a “single contact point” and once a company is established in one country, it will not need to repeat the registration process in another participating nation. Is this just a wishful dream? Not really. EU countries have a deadline to implement the directive, but the means to achieve it are entirely up to the individual nations.

Next up was an industry roundtable with an update on current initiatives. A member of the Green IT working group presented results of a recently completed survey of EU Services and Support Forum members on topics of interest in Green IT. While this topic garners a lot of interest in Europe, there is confusion about what it really is. They determined the group should consider a standard definition of Green IT, with a heavier focus on service providers rather than on manufacturers. In reality, "Green" starts with the manufacturing process (or earlier, as in the design phase), so vendors are already covered by the legal requirements. A gap does exist in Green IT services and the working group focus may shift to establishing best practices instead. An explicit accreditation for service providers would likely be useful to the industry, as well as a directory of Green IT services providers. 

Before the meeting wrapped up, attendees received an update on the PC manufacturers’ project, setting industry standards for customer induced damages. A new initiative was also discusses, the creation of a directory of service providers (CompTIA members) throughout the EU. This project will be discussed further at the next meeting, slated for October in the London area.

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With more than 2,000 members, 3,000 academic and training partners and tens of thousands of registered users spanning the entire information communications and technology (ICT) industry, CompTIA has become a leading voice for the technology ecosystem.

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