The European cloud project Gaia-X, which aims to ensure Europe has its own trusted data and cloud infrastructure, came one step closer to becoming operational after the first specification round of the Federation Services was completed on Wednesday (26 May). EURACTIV Germany reports.
“The Gaia-X Federation Services form the foundation and basis for the operational implementation of Gaia-X,” Andreas Weiss of the German Internet Industry Association (eco) said about the centrepiece of the cloud project.
The Federation Services guarantee interoperability and compatibility between different systems to prevent lock-in effects and to simplify and standardise data transmission between different cloud systems.
“We have now defined common standards and frameworks as a first step to enable cooperation,” he said.
Positive signals also came from Germany’s economy ministry, which is funding the project with €13.5 million.
“With the establishment of the so-called Federation Services, the technical core of the Gaia-X operating system, the next milestone has been reached,” said the economy ministry’s digital economy officer, Thomas Jarzombek.
“This way, all services of Gaia-X will be connected to a transparent and open system according to European standards. I am pleased that the project continues to gain momentum in order to get to the market as soon as possible,” he added.
The specification round will now be followed by the tendering phase to attract partners for implementation.
The first services of the project are expected to be available by the end of 2021 to counter the dominance of US cloud systems in the European market.
A digitally sovereign Europe?
The Gaia-X project, which involves more than 100 European companies, was launched in 2020 to strengthen the competitiveness of European companies and business models internationally, with the aim of building an interconnected open data infrastructure based on European values.
The cloud project is designed as an open marketplace for cloud services to connect with each other and to consumers in order to ensure the greatest level of interoperability between the different services.
This should facilitate the exchange of data between the different industries, such as the health, agriculture, and finance sectors, and create a unified digital ecosystem.
“GAIA-X enables digital sovereignty for cloud service users. European providers of cloud services can scale their uses so that it is economically attractive to offer these services,” said Economy Minister Peter Altmaier.
For her part, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen referred to Gaia-X in her State of the Union speech in 2020, affirming that a “European cloud as part of NextGenerationEU – based on GAIA-X” is being developed.
In the proposed Data Governance Act the EU Commission has also taken steps to increase trust and strengthen the data-sharing mechanisms across the EU. “Our regulation will help Europe become the world’s number one data continent,” Commissioner Thierry Breton said.
The expectations of European companies for the Gaia-X project are high.
By 2025, the European cloud industry is to take a leading role worldwide and become a showcase for competitiveness in the areas of climate neutrality, cybersecurity and data transfer trustworthiness in order to ensure the setting of global standards, the roadmap states.
However, critics have pointed out that major US companies like IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are also involved in the project.
“If the objective of the EU and national governments is to invest to build up EU technological competence through Gaia-X, it has to assure that Gaia-X does not turn into a trojan horse for the GAFAM hyperscalers to siphon off public funding for creating the envisioned federated data infrastructure with US and Asian technology providers,” warned open-source experts Stefane Fermigier and Sven Franck in an opinion published on EURACTIV.
Participation of third countries could indeed weaken the EU digital ecosystem and thus achieve the opposite goal envisioned by Gaia-X.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Luca Bertuzzi]