GAIA-X Summit 2020: Key Takeaways and the Future of Data Sovereignty in Europe | Blog

GAIA-X Summit 2020: Key Takeaways and the Future of Data Sovereignty in Europe

In an earlier blog on sovereign cloud, we explained how GAIA-X – an ambitious project led by France and Germany, aimed at creating a high-performance and trustworthy data infrastructure for Europe – is set to play a pivotal role in the evolution of the European cloud market in the coming years. Since then, GAIA-X has experienced a significant increase in the number of member firms, cutting across geographies and industry verticals, in its endeavor to secure data sovereignty.

We participated in the GAIA-X summit, which was held virtually on November 18 and 19, 2020, and highlighted the increasing relevance of GAIA-X both within and outside Europe and for the broader Industry 4.0 agenda. Here are some of the notable insights from the summit.

GAIA-X has experienced a significant increase in member firms and countries – including non-European countries

GAIA-X was launched with 22 member firms (11 French, 11 German) and an initial focus on France and Germany, but, within one year, the project has grown into a colossal multi-industry project with over 181 members from 18 countries.

Notably, on October 15, 2020, all 27 European member states signed a joint declaration supporting the European Commission’s cloud and data strategy, which mentioned GAIA-X as a leading example of a public-private initiative for European-federated data infrastructure.

Economists believe GAIA-X will create long-term economic benefits for Europe

The GAIA-X project is expected to reap benefits for European countries in the long run, as several economists, including the likes of Jacques Cremer, have placed their bets on a better data sharing platform that reduces transaction costs. The key ways in which GAIA-X can help improve the European economy are:

  1. Better data sharing platforms will result in quality AI training data and, thus, a better AI-enabled infrastructure, propelling more automation and cost savings
  2. It will reduce codependence among subcontractors by curbing the use of proprietary data exchange methodologies


GAIA-X will help better implement European compliance laws

Compliance and data sovereignty are some of the key goals of the GAIA-X project, and the project is expected to address some of these challenges related to European laws. As it is designed on the core European values of openness, transparency, and collaboration, GAIA-X is expected to better implement European laws along with the draft European Data Governance Act, which will play a crucial role in defining data flows in Europe.

GAIA-X can play a key role in enabling infrastructure for Industry 4.0

Industries in Europe are in a transformative state, with increasing emphasis on data access, data security, and data sovereignty. The next step in IoT is AI-enabled IoT (AIoT), and industry experts are confident that GAIA-X will enable the data infrastructure needed for this transformation.

Several potential use cases across multiple data ecosystems – within and outside Europe

GAIA-X already has use cases across multiple industries and sectors, including finance, health, public sector, agriculture, energy, mobility, smart living, and Industry 4.0. Some of these use cases include collaborative condition monitoring, shared production, financial big data clusters, smart health connect, smart infrastructure management, digital parking management, and agricultural ecosystem, among many others.

Cloud adoption in Europe will increase through a collaborative data ecosystem

A key value proposition of GAIA-X is a collaborative data ecosystem that can help build a structure with innovation at its core. GAIA-X aims to increase cloud usage in the EU from 24% to 60% in the coming years by developing common standards with other cloud providers that will accelerate market uptake and simultaneously enhance data portability.

Strong financial support for GAIA-X to help the EU tackle data sovereignty and data privacy challenges

The German government is planning to make EUR200 million available for GAIA-X, while the EU is planning to invest EUR2 billion in the digital transformation space, some of which will find its way to the GAIA-X project.

With access to these funds, GAIA-X will emerge as a strong contender for hyperscalers in Europe and will impact the overall cloud market. The GAIA-X roll-out will further help the EU address the core issues of data privacy and data sovereignty – which have long been a challenge.

Consolidating successes and looking ahead

We believe that GAIA-X has experienced significant growth in the last year, primarily for the following reasons:

  • The project has a strong legal framework with open source software promoting transparency
  • Companies across industries have committed to it
  • It is starting to build a strong customer base with use cases identified, again across industries

We expect GAIA-X to continue its momentum in 2021, driven by the European Data Governance Act and constant legal battles between US tech giants, such as Facebook, Google, and Apple, and the EU. The project also plans to launch six regional hubs by the end of 2020, while another six are in the pipeline for the first half of 2021. These regional hubs will act as entry points for anyone who wants to use GAIA-X and will further strengthen GAIA-X’s data sovereignty proposition, even as more firms and countries hop on the GAIA-X bandwagon.

If you’d like to know more about the GAIA-X project or have any questions or observations, please write to us at [email protected] or [email protected].

Politics and Technology in the Post-Pandemic World Will Drive Sovereign Cloud Adoption | Blog

Discussions around data and cloud sovereignty have been gaining momentum over the past decade for multiple reasons, including unsecured digital documents, varied data-related laws in different countries, scrutiny and liability issues, the dominance of US hyperscalers, and low visibility into and control of data. However, the biggest trigger for increased focus on sovereign cloud is the US CLOUD Act of 2018, which gives US law enforcement agencies the power to unilaterally demand access to data from companies regardless of the geography in which data is stored.

What is a sovereign cloud?

A sovereign cloud essentially aims to maintain the sovereignty of data in all possible ways for any entity (country, region, enterprise, government, etc.). Thus, it demands that all data should reside locally, the cloud should be managed and governed locally, all data processing – including API calls –  should happen within the country/geography, the data should be accessible only to residents of the same country, and the data should not be accessible under foreign laws or from any outside geography.

Multiple sovereign cloud initiatives have been undertaken in the past

In 2012, France launched a national cloud called Andromede. It failed to gain traction and was split into two clouds – Cloudwatt and Numergy. After struggling, Numergy was acquired by a telecommunications company in 2019, and CloudWatt was shut down in 2020. In another such initiative, Microsoft set up a dedicated German cloud in 2015 but decommissioned it in 2018 due to limited traction.

In 2019, in response to the US CLOUD Act, Germany, in partnership with France, launched Project GAIA-X, with the aim of creating a high performance, competitive, secure, and trustworthy infrastructure for Europe. The two governments invited many companies, including Bosch, Deutsche Telekom, Festo, Orange Business Services, and SAP, to collaborate on the project. While the original intent was quite aspirational and intended to create a completely independent hyperscale cloud, everyone quickly realized that this goal was illusory, and the project evolved into building something that brings the best of all worlds with “European DNA” at its center.

A novel mix of politics and technology makes GAIA-X interesting

While previous sovereign cloud initiatives have not been very successful, project GAIA-X promises to be different. When the project was first launched in 2019, it was largely seen as a political gimmick aimed at driving nationalistic sentiments in Europe. Many enterprises believed that the project could be completely scrapped if the government changed. Most were unconvinced of its potential success given their previous experiences with national clouds. The hyperscalers, AWS and Azure, dismissed GAIA-X’s potential to scale and become competitive, and called out that a national cloud was interesting only in theory.

However, the story that has unfolded and continues to evolve is completely different. While some of the intent may be political, various governments across Europe are strongly backing this initiative and coming together to create Europe’s own digital ecosystem. By June 2020, the GAIA-X Foundation had expanded to 22 organizations – including digital leaders, industrials, academia and associations – and the project is being supported by more than 300 businesses.

On the technology front, GAIA-X is now much clearer than when it began. It released a detailed technical architecture in June 2020, and primarily focuses on building common standards that enable transparency and interoperability by aligning network and interconnection providers, Cloud Solution Providers (CSP), High Performance Computing (HPC), and sector-specific clouds and edge systems. It has built use cases across industries including finance, health, public sector, agriculture, and energy, and horizontal use cases spanning Industry 4.0, smart living, and mobility.

There are still a few issues – including an unclear roadmap, unrealistically aggressive timelines, a lack of detail on hybrid or multi-cloud architectures, lower performance and higher costs, and a gap in the requisite skills – that need to be sorted for GAIA-X to succeed.

Nationalism and the coronavirus will push sovereign clouds beyond theory

Growing nationalistic sentiments sweeping various geographies/nations such as the US, Europe, and India, will add fuel to the sovereign cloud discussion. The Huawei ban in the US, the ban on Chinese apps in India, and reducing dependencies on China across sectors are indicators of emerging nationalistic sentiments. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced enterprises to reevaluate their external exposure. The fact that cloud is the core pillar of enterprises’ data strategies falls right at the center of this entire discussion, and the idea of a national or sovereign cloud is destined to become more than mere theory.

Recommendations on how you can begin to incorporate elements of sovereign cloud in your cloud strategy

Enterprises around the globe need to pay immediate attention to this sovereign cloud trend. Here are our recommendations on how your organization can stay ahead of the curve.

  • Be aware of the GAIA-X trends in Europe: While the project is still in its initial stages, it is evolving very quickly and gaining significant traction. You should proactively track and understand GAIA-X adoption as it will be an excellent preview of what could happen in the rest of the world.
  • Factor the political angle into your future cloud strategy: Europe is an excellent example of the political influence in enterprise cloud decisions. You need to be aware of the political environment in your country and whether or not it could pose risks to your existing cloud strategy. The idea of a nationalistic or sovereign cloud will be driven by the government, which might pass laws enforcing some kind of implementation. You should be prepared for this potential eventuality.
  • Ensure technological flexibility in your cloud architecture: Cloud architecture flexibility will be key to integrating sovereign cloud with the rest of your environment. Hyperscalers like AWS and Azure are increasingly leveraging techniques such as increased licensing prices, full stack services, contractual terms, data transfer charges, and limited interoperability to lock in enterprises. You need to be wary of these techniques and adopt an agnostic, interoperable, multi-cloud strategy to ensure easy migration to sovereign cloud in the future.

How do you think sovereign cloud will evolve in Europe and other geographies? Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected].

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