European Commission launches new data and cloud alliance

The new alliance has been in the pipeline since last year's European data strategy, with a view to creating innovative synergies between European computing tech companies and advising the EU executive on its industrial strategy and investments plans. [chanchai howharn/Shutterstock]

The new European Commission-powered Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud was officially launched on Tuesday (December 14). With 39 members, the initiative gathers some of Europe’s top-notch tech companies to collaborate on next-generation computing technologies.

“Data will transform the way we produce, consume and live”, said Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, who chaired the kick-off meeting.

“With energy-efficient, highly secure and interoperable solutions, we will enable the uptake of new digital technologies, provide businesses and public administrations with a trusted framework to process data, and strengthen the position of EU industry,” he added.

The new alliance has been in the pipeline since last year’s European data strategy, with a view to creating innovative synergies between European computing tech companies and advising the EU executive on its industrial strategy and investments plans.

In particular, the alliance will be consulted on the drafting of the regulatory cloud rulebook, expected in 2022.

The initiative is part of a broader push toward digital sovereignty, intended as reducing dependencies from foreign technology providers.

Mastery of technology is central to the ‘new geopolitical order’, Breton says

The COVID-19 crisis has exposed Europe’s strategic vulnerabilities and underscored the need for the European Union to foster its own industrial policy and aim for technological sovereignty in “the new geopolitical order”, the EU’s Commissioner for the internal market, Thierry Breton, has stressed.

“This represents a major opportunity to enhance collaboration between users and technology providers, to foster European cloud and edge infrastructure, and to generate new market developments through data sharing, data spaces, digital data platforms and ultimately value-added services”, said Pierre Barnabé, interim co-CEO at French tech giant Atos.

In total, 39 European companies have signed up to join the organisation, including major manufacturers such as Airbus, Dassault Aviation, and Siemens, telecom providers such as Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, and Telecom Italia (TIM), ICT companies such as Nokia and Ericsson, and of course, cloud service providers such as OVHcloud, Clever Cloud and Scaleway.

Heavyweights from other sectors were also brought in, notably software provider SAP, security company Leonardo, and consulting firm Capgemini.

The first working group is to be held on Thursday (16 December) to define priorities and deadlines for the Alliance’s deliverables, EURACTIV has learned.

It will have a general assembly composed of all members, a steering committee appointed by the Commission, and a forum open to all industry players, including non-members of the alliance.

Not a Gaia-X 2.0 

The Alliance is not pursuing the same objectives as Gaia-X, the European flagship cloud project, nor will it have a similar governance structure, stressed some members.

Instead, it is meant as a “forum for discussion” of the major issues facing the cloud and edge technology industry, and not a “standardisation body” aiming at harmonising technical requirements, Lucas Buthion from Scaleway told EURACTIV.

Scaleway was at the centre of a spat over Gaia-X last month, as the French cloud provider backed out of the project, citing foreign influence as one of the reasons for their departure.

“Compared to other initiatives like Gaia-X, this alliance is initiated by a public authority”, which gives it a certain “legitimacy”, added Buthion. The European Commission will have to play an “interesting role in aggregating and arbitrating”.

Cracks appear as Gaia-X celebrates its progress

As the heads of Gaia-X, a much-publicised European tech project, praised progress in developing a federated cloud and data ecosystem at the Gaia-X summit concluded on Friday (19. November), one of Europe’s biggest cloud providers has already jumped ship.

The idea behind Gaia-X was to achieve “a cloud in Europe, not a European cloud, which was probably misunderstood from the beginning”, Guillaume Champeau, head of public affairs at Clever Cloud, told EURACTIV.

This new alliance aims at “bringing together European industrialists to create European innovation so that we no longer have to depend on American and Asian giants in the field of the cloud and the edge”, he said, emphasising that the original intention should not be sidetracked by the potential arrival of GAFAMs, particularly within the forum.

Clever Cloud will also make a point of “paying attention to the whole cloud ecosystem, not just the infrastructure operators”, Champeau said, stressing that “the cloud is a whole value chain and that what makes the most value in the cloud is the software”.

France to prioritise digital regulation, tech sovereignty during EU Council presidency

Digital regulation and tech sovereignty will be among France’s digital priorities when it takes over the rotating EU Council presidency in the first half of 2022. EURACTIV France reports.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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