Will Gaia-X deliver the independent cloud network Europe needs?
Tue 18 Feb 2020 | Alexander Kalkman
Not much is known about Europe’s new cloud project, but the signs are promising, writes Alexander Kalkman
With the cloud industry establishing itself as a key movement in the provision of IT infrastructure around the world, the emergence of US dominant global hyperscale providers has placed many European government organisations in an increasingly difficult position.
The issue is one of independence, or more precisely, the enormous reliance that organisations based in Europe have on the market-leading, largely US-based cloud providers, who must enforce US-based regulations and practices that aren’t suitable for European citizens and company data.
A good example is the US Cloud Act, which calls for US-based technology firms to provide requested data stored on servers, even if the servers containing the data are located outside of the US. For European businesses using US cloud services, this has significant implications, because the Act broadens the US and foreign law enforcement’s capacity to target and access the data of individuals or businesses beyond US borders.
As a result, the German and French governments intend to break the hold that many of these hyperscale cloud providers have on European data. The solution has come in the form of the Gaia-X project, an initiative designed to provide a safe and sovereign European data infrastructure, regulated by local laws and independent of wider jurisdiction and implemented by European service providers.
Data sovereignty sits at the heart of Gaia-X, and from data infrastructure, data warehouses, data pooling to the development of data interoperability, Europe is on a timetable to launch the platform this year. Many other European countries are also expected to get on board in the months ahead.
Its impact will be to remove much of the data monitoring risks associated with the current US-based market leaders. In the process, it aims to free European government-based organisations from intrusive rules that can order US cloud providers to hand over data to government authorities, no matter where that data resides.
Not too surprisingly, Gaia-X has been on the receiving end of a ‘backlash’ from the likes of Microsoft and Google, who argue that it will restrict data services along national borders. Additionally, our understanding, based on Microsoft’s reactions, is that the project may create unnecessary unrest referring to anti-competition issues. This has since been deemed a non-argument by the German Ministry, but it was never likely that US cloud businesses would welcome the platform with open arms.
As one of Europe’s cloud hosting providers, we are excited to support Gaia-X and the creation of a Europe-wide cloud network, aligning fully with its objectives to facilitate the creation of European data and AI-driven ecosystems, to guarantee data sovereignty, and to ensure that value creation remains with the individual participants. With the German and French governments driving this initiative, supported by leading local businesses in both countries, it won’t be long before the Netherlands and other countries join to create a sovereign ecosystem that will have a positive impact on business across the entire continent, strengthening Europe’s competitiveness in the global digital market.