GAIA-X: On the way to digital emancipation



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4 minutes


Hans Berndl

Networking decentralized cloud infrastructures and building a common ecosystem for data and services should strengthen European data sovereignty and reduce the dominance of US and Asian providers.

Hans Berndl reports directly from the project on the progress of the Europe-wide digital initiative GAIA-X, the commitment and current tasks of A1 Digital in it.

Bringing specialists together, orchestrating and coordinating different types of development work and always keeping the common goal in mind is not trivial for anyone. Especially not when it is a gigantic, Europe-wide digital project involving some 300 companies and research institutions and under the auspices of the German and French Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Accordingly, the skeptics were surprised that within six months GAIA-X found not only basic work, but also an effective legal form: As a non-profit organisation, the GAIA-X Foundation, based in Brussels, will promote and manage joint development work on Europe's digital sovereignty through a multi-provider cloud system.

Active from the start

For us, work on the European project for the emancipation of large US cloud providers (aka Hyperscaler) has already begun well before the official launch, which took place on 4 June 2020: A1 Digital has been involved since the KickOff and has contributed its expertise to the first technical architecture concept for GAIA-X as well as to the cross-vendor teams working together on the technical infrastructure specification and the necessary standards.

The recently published architectural concept defines the interfaces required for GAIA-X, the central services, as well as the rules and standards to be adhered to. It also shows the technical requirements from the user's point of view. Use cases are currently being developed for eight areas: Energy, finance, health, Industry 4.0 in SMEs, agriculture, mobility, public sector and smart living.

Connected cloud connectivity with data ecosystem

The common goal is to connect cloud and edge instances and a common, wide-ranging service offering under European law and data protection. This would eliminate several of the data-sovereign problems in the international cloud market: With GAIA-X, users no longer have to fear being tied to a specific provider (keyword: lock-in). Instead, they can move their data and applications between provider platforms as needed and at will, and assemble services based on demand and budget.

At the same time, they can avoid the data protection problems conflicts arising from the legal situation in the USA (keyword: CLOUDAct), to which the majority of hyperscalers are subject. The CLOUD Act is in clear contradiction to the provisions of the European GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), especially with regard to the extensive access rights of state organisations. In a European cloud network like the one GAIA-X is aiming for, infrastructures, data, personal information and applications enjoy special protection. Users who have been shying away from data processing in the cloud can gain confidence and finally benefit from advantages such as massive scalable capacity and usage-based costs.

In other words: The networking of cloud infrastructures and services promoted by GAIA-X is intended to strengthen the digital clout and independence of European companies and therefore promote data-based innovation.

Principles and practice

Like all participants in the GAIA-X project, A1 Digital is committed to adhering to guiding principles. The roadmap to European data security, sovereignty and innovation focuses on the protection of data sovereignty, data availability, interoperability and portability, promotion of transparency and fair participation.

This is another reason why technical infrastructures and their open standards play a major role in implementation, not only for us. In order for data and services to flow and operate between the various cloud instances and provider platforms without any loss of friction, the necessary interfaces and virtualization layers will certainly be accompanied by state-of-the-art administrative procedures. For example, A1 Digital can contribute to this with container technology and Kubernetes, a field in which we already have a lot of know-how and experience.

What we are particularly pleased about when working on GAIA-X: The initially more traditional organisation of cooperative development work at GAIA-X is increasingly giving way to more agile and therefore more effective approaches. For example, onboarding for new participants has been significantly simplified; professional exchange and communication function; and instead of rigid workgroups, there are now task packages within the three “workstreams” use cases, infrastructure and services.

The teams in which we are active work in a very result-oriented and comradely manner, with the respective company affiliation and culture playing only a minor role. This increases the pace and makes the interaction exciting.

It is true that there will certainly be some time before the binding catalogue of services, a uniform billing system and the common user interface of GAIA-X are available. But good progress is being made towards a common platform through which companies can put together the most suitable capacities and applications (whether for their own development projects, peak load mitigation, AI testing or day-to-day business) according to need and budget: Pilot missions with high-performance prototypes are expected to take place as early as early 2021.

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Hans is enthusiastic about technology and sharing knowledge. He is a senior manager with many years of professional experience in the leading software industry. He specialises in enterprise software, product management, market launch strategies, and strategic marketing. Hans is a dedicated manager with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus on General Management from Liverpool John Moores University.

Hans Berndl Senior Sales & Partner Enablement Manager, A1 Digital (Exoscale)