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Whether it is apps and games for smartphones, video conferencing in the home office, advanced manufacturing or smart mobility – very little is possible in the digital age without the cloud.
June saw the official launch of the Gaia-X European cloud infrastructure initiative first announced less than a year ago. Germany has high hopes for the cloud infrastructure initiative, believing that it will play a central role in Europe’s digital transformation as it aims to steer a path to recovery out of the Covid-19 crisis.
Established to consolidate digital sovereignty within Europe, Gaia-X will make a European cloud data storage alternative to the global cloud giants a reality.
The creation of an open digital ecosystem will enable European companies and business models to compete on the global stage.
Moreover, the new ecosystem will also safeguard the digital sovereignty of cloud services users as well as the scalability of European cloud providers. As such, the Franco-German project represents nothing more than the “starting point of a European data ecosystem” according to German Economic Affairs and Energy Minister Peter Altmaier – and one that allows competition with international cloud providers on a level playing field.
To date, more than 300 organizations and a consortium of 22 companies, the charter members of the Gaia X Foundation from France (including Atos, Dassault Systèmes and Orange) and Germany (including Bosch, SAP, Siemens and Deutsche Telekom) have signed up for the project with participation open to new European interested parties (non-EU companies are also allowed to participate if they comply with European data protection regulations).
The purpose of the Gaia-X project is not to create a publicly funded European hyperscaler, but rather use standards to orchestrate multiple cloud solutions into an edge-cloud solution where users can combine individual solutions to create a unified solution.
Gaia-X is part of a broader European Union (EU) vision to create a common digital strategy, of which the consultation process for a member state road map will run until the end of July. Industrial and commercial data are key drivers of the global digital economy.
The creation of a single market for data will make the EU more competitive and promote innovative processes, products and services.
Between EUR 4 billion and EUR 6 billion will be invested in total to create common European data spaces and a European federation of cloud infrastructure and services. Europe’s data economy is forecast to more than double by 2025; with 2018 EU GDP share of 2.4 percent (EUR 301 billion) set to rise to 5.8 percent of EU GDP (829 billion).
Working in tandem, Europe’s digital strategy and the Gaia-X project should create a flourishing ecosystem for companies working on future technologies (including artificial intelligence) and new business models.
More importantly, data sovereignty is guaranteed – with all users able to decide themselves where the data is stored, who processes it, and for what purpose it is used accorded to the user’s own data classification. A harmonized regulatory and standard framework also opens the door to the use of open public data (mobility and weather data, geographical data, date obtained from publicly financed R&D) in numerous public and private application scenarios.
At the time of writing, just 44 municipalities and 11 counties make their own OPD portal available – this being the legacy of a fragmented regulatory framework.
The value-added potential of OPD to Germany is considerable, with some estimates identifying an annual use potential of EUR 43 billion.
More than 40 use cases have been submitted to the Gaia-X project across eight domains including
Contributions expand beyond France and Germany, with companies and organizations from the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland also playing an active part in the use cases outlined.
Numerous partnership opportunities exist for both European and international companies – safe in the knowledge that their data sovereignty is always maintained.
Project participation is open to new interested parties who share the same data sovereignty and data availability goals. This can be done by contributing domain-specific and technical requirements or by contributing technical expertise, new use cases and active participation in working groups.
The first fruits of the Gaia-X project should be available by the turn of the year.