OVHSummit2017: Why OVH stands for an open cloud model

Laurent Allard, vice-chairman of the OVH Group and in charge of strategic development, during the keynote of OVH Summit 2017 on October 17 in Paris.

You know that the future of IT lies in the Cloud. For some of you, migration to the cloud still represents a significant technical challenge, but in the short to medium term the great majority of companies will make this move. The question is no longer “Do we have to move to the Cloud?” but rather, “What type of Cloud do we want?” Do we want a cloud where companies will always stay in control of their own decisions? Or are we willing to accept technical constraints that create strong dependencies?

The cloud, an increasingly strategic issue for companies

In 2017, the European Commission described the cloud as a “strategic lever for growth” (1).
And the OCDE described the Internet as an “infrastructure playing an increasingly vital role in the global economy”. What will we say about the Cloud in 2025, when it is 10 times bigger than it is now(IaaS + PaaS)? Because that is the growth predicted for the next 8 years.

This exponential growth is the direct result of two developments.

First, the explosion in global data production: + 40 % per year (source: Intel).
This creates a rising need for storage and data processing capacities, especially because of Big Data, Machine Learning, Deep Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Just think, a robotized factory will soon be producing over one petabyte of data each day.
While a self-driving car will produce no less than 5 terabytes.

The second driver of growth when it comes to the cloud is company legacy migration. This transfer has started, but it is just the beginning. At the moment, 80% of this legacy is left to migrate from data centres within companies to the data centres of cloud providers. This represents a volume of over 100 billion euros.

So the cloud, in the future to an even greater extent than today, is a strategic issue for companies. Let’s return to the question at hand: what type of cloud do we want?

The 4 aspects of an open cloud

At OVH, we strongly believe that companies must retain freedom of choice when it comes to the digital world. They must be free to choose their cloud providers, free to change them, free to use applications from several providers, and free to choose where their data is stored. We have to protect and preserve this freedom. This belief can be summed up in two words: Open Cloud. Let me explain what we mean by an “open” Cloud.

The first, crucial, point, is reversibility. Can I leave the Cloud easily or does each new service that I use lock me in a little bit more? How much time does it take me to make a migration? Do I have to build my infrastructure again from scratch? Can I export my applications from one cloud provider to another?

The second point is interoperability: will the tech choices that I make now limit me in the future when I integrate other application services? Can I get components from different providers to communicate? Can I carry on using my legacy and build a hybrid cloud?

On these two points, reversibility and interoperability, solutions are available. We have to use and promote technological standards. This is what we are doing at OVH. But other providers offer components that only work on their own platforms. This creates dependencies, and makes reversibility and interoperability more difficult.

The third aspect of the open cloud: data protection. The customer must be able to choose where their data is stored and be informed about the legal framework the data will be subject to. It must be said that the same level of protection is not provided by all countries. Look at the analysis by CNIL on the levels of protection by country. Again, there are indeed solutions but they only partially meet consumers' needs.

The Cloud is too strategic to take risks when it comes to data protection. We cannot let a dominant party impose its own rules just because it controls part of the market.

Europe is leading the way in developing laws on data protection for the Cloud. You have seen this with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which will come into force in May 2018. Other European laws are being worked on, and are confirming Europe as being an especially protective zone.

There is a fourth important aspect to the Open Cloud. This is the respect for intellectual property, and in particular intellectual property rights over the algorithms used in artificial intelligence. This is a new problem, and I would like to explain it by using an example.

The question of intellectual property rights over artificial intelligence algorithms

This is a real example that I worked on recently. A municipal council was developing a video protection system with an algorithm for detecting abnormal occurrences in real time: cars or individuals moving around the town. It was a matter of building an algorithm to detect abnormal occurrences (cars or individuals moving around the town) in real time. This council started testing artificial intelligence engines. At first, the algorithm was not ideal: there were a lot of false positives. But after a few months, the service became more and more reliable. This is because the artificial neurons are ‘trained’ by the operators who are correcting and refining the detection criteria.

For economic and legal reasons, this council considered transferring its data to OVH as well as transferring the artificial intelligence engine. And that is where the problem of intellectual property arose. Who do the trained neurons, which make the AI algorithm powerful, belong to? Can we retrieve the elements and export them in a standard format?

Today, the answer is simple: nothing can be retrieved. You have to start over. This is why we at OVH are working on ‘open’ offers for AI, that will allow you to retain intellectual property rights over your work, over your investment.

OVH is already committed to building an open cloud

Let’s not pretend otherwise, building and promoting an open cloud is a big challenge!

But it can be done. And OVH has been on this path for quite some time. This means OVH does not make tech choices for you. We offer a wide range of solutions based fully on technological standards.

We bring you a large number of solutions based on open source technologies, whether it is OpenStack, which is behind our Public Cloud offer, or Ceph, which complements it for the Public Cloud Storage. Or the PaaS Docker solution that we offer in the OVH Labs, and of course the Linux [url="https://www.ovh.com/ca/en/dedicated-servers/distributions/"]operating systems that we offer preinstalled on our servers.

But for us, being ‘Open’ is not limited to offering open source. Openness is about being able to offer the technologies you need, whether they are open source or whether it is a question of industry standards. You need to use existing standards deployed within your company. VMware is the perfect example of this openness to existing standards. Our Private Cloud is based on VMware technologies. This gives you easy migration, hybridization, and also reversibility and interoperability. In the same way, we offer standards including Veeam for backup, Zerto for your disaster recovery plan or Plesk for managing your web projects. We are committed to this approach and we are now working with other big Platform Software providers to add other big industry standards to our catalogue. Come back in a few months.

Our commitment to an open cloud is not limited to providing open technology components.

Adapting the regulatory framework to the needs of the user

We are also committed to regulating the sector. For us, openness is also about working with some of our competitors and/or partners every day to help leading (European) decision-makers to adopt a regulatory framework that is adapted to the needs of our customers: to your needs.

For two years, alongside other infrastructure providers, we have been part of the professional association CISPE (Cloud Infrastructure Service Provider in Europe). OVH chairs the CISPE, which already has over 20 Cloud provider members. What is the CISPE for? Let’s take a concrete example: GDPR. Who published the first industry code of conduct on GDPR? Finance? Healthcare? No: the IaaS Cloud sector. Barely a year ago, CISPE published the first code of conduct to help Cloud Providers comply with the GDPR, and as a result help their customers reach compliance as well.

Things are moving forward in terms of the Infrastructure of the cloud (IaaS), but we also need to address the other layers of the Cloud: PaaS, service applications (Docker containerization in particular), cognitive services (on demand AI application) and intermediation (the increasingly frequent recourse to intermediaries so users can access/discover services: search engine, marketplace...). All these elements in the cloud ecosystem can create dependencies, locks against which we believe we must act.

Standardization focuses on the infrastructure aspect of the cloud (IaaS) but it also needs to be extended to the various layers of the Cloud ecosystem.

The Open Cloud Foundation, to go further

We can already see several standardization bodies in the Cloud universe, but they are highly specialized to a specific domain (like OW2 Consortium, the OpenStack Foundation, or the Cloud Native Computing Foundation). None address all the challenges of the Cloud. None offer a systemic view of the Cloud. We cannot ask companies that are Cloud customers to be experts on every standard, at every level: on intermediation, cognitive as a service, applications, PaaS, IaaS...

Companies have to be able to focus on developing their applications without worrying about technological uncertainty and confinement. Companies have to concentrate on their core business, and not on technological constraints and dependencies.

This is why we think we have to create a multi-purpose structure that complements the organizations specialized in specific problems. We need to bring together all the different parties involved in the Cloud: solution providers (IaaS, PaaS, FaaS, CaaS...), but also companies, research institutes and representatives from public bodies.

To achieve this, we have been working for several months with 20 parties that represent the Cloud. Together, we are going to launch a global organization: the Open Cloud Foundation. This foundation will focus on four main imperatives, essential to an Open Cloud: irreversibility, interoperability, data protection and the respect for intellectual property rights.

To start with, this foundation will carry out three key actions:

- Promote technological standards (promote existing ones, and add what is missing);
- Communicate with public organizations on new regulations;
- Accredit providers according to their compliance with the basic criteria of Open Cloud.

This is only the beginning, but initial feedback has been very encouraging. Over the next three months, the Open Cloud Foundation will establish its statutes, governance and road map for 2018. We plan to be totally operational by the first quarter 2018.

Over 20 companies, professional associations, public organizations or research centres aree already committed to the creation of the Open Cloud foundation.

We have seen how the cloud is becoming an increasingly strategic issue for companies. And how the industry of the Cloud could be empowered to develop an alternative to a silo approach: by developing an Open Cloud.

"And what about you? Do you want to help build an #OpenCloud? Register at https://t.co/TvwMZuiBXB pic.twitter.com/4GoBhlSX1O — Open Cloud Fdn (@OpenCloudFdn) October 17, 2017

I invite you to join us in this initiative. Are you interested in Open Cloud? Join us! You can join in by signing up at open-cloud-foundation.org and sharing your ideas on Twitter @OpenCloud_FdN #OpenCloudFdn.

(1) Measuring the economic impact of cloud computing in Europe, European Commission report published on January 10, 2017.