Gaia-X is finally spreading its wings

“From now on, we are moving into the next phase, the growth phase,” said Gaia-X President Francesco Bonfiglio from Paris, where the organization’s third summit took place on Thursday and Friday. “By next year, we expect the majority of our members to be Gaia-X compliant or using Gaia-X compliant services,” he explained.

The Gaia-X initiative was launched in 2019 at the initiative of France and Germany. Its goal is to develop a reliable and sovereign digital infrastructure for Europe and enable companies in the market to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the data economy.

“We are developing a set of rules and a set of technologies to test these rules to facilitate the creation of data spaces in an environment of trust,” its CEO summed up, convinced that this “trust” will be the key to catch compared to the European backlog in adoption of these technologies. Today, only 34% of EU companies use them on average (25.3% for France), according to the European Commission, which sets a target of 75% by 2030.

If an association that now has over 350 members does not claim to be a standards body, its 20 working groups are tasked with agreeing on specifications and labels based on the values ​​of security, portability, interoperability and transparency.

First concrete results

And now Gaia-X intends to act after several years of laying the foundation. Thus, the French team Gaia-X Federated Services presented this week the first catalog of federated cloud services (GXFS-FR). This platform brings together 176 cloud services that should enable the initiative’s ambitions to be realized. “This is an important step: Gaia-X is moving away from concepts and moving into its first real-market implementation of its meta-cloud approach,” said Francisco Mingorance, CISPE General Secretary and Gaia-X Board Member.

These 176 services are certified with a mark divided into three levels, the last of which guarantees immunity from non-European legislation with extraterritorial coverage. This third summit also provided an opportunity to highlight eight space data pilot projects developed by Gaia-X members. These first concrete results have been eagerly awaited and should bring some clarity to a project that suffers from a serious lack of efficiency and clarity in communication that has not helped observers outside the initiative to see real progress.

Multiple sorties

This confusion is exacerbated by the different approach to the concept of sovereignty, although underlying the project, from one member to another. Initially presented as a response to the hegemony of American hyperscalers, “cloud Airbus” according to Bruno Le Maire, the hopes of some of them were dashed by the presence of Google, Amazon or Microsoft, who, if they cannot sit on the board of directors, take part in the work.

“We prefer to focus on our speed and our ability to hire the best people, rather than using our engineers’ time in work teams that are largely in the hands of dominant players and ensure everything goes very well. very complex,” said Arnaud de Bermingham, president and founder of Scaleway, at L’Usine Digitale when he slammed the door on Gaia-X in November 2021.

According to opponents of the project, this configuration would not really allow to cope with the consequences of isolation and establish real compatibility. “Getting rid of the effects of imprisonment does not mean getting rid of the actors who created these effects of imprisonment,” Francesco Bonfiglio replied to L’Usine Digitale magazine.

More clarity

But Gaia-X hopes that this difficult job of defining and positioning is over. “We will always have disagreements about how things should be approached,” but “Gaia-X’s role and ways of participating are much clearer today,” said Maximilian Ahrens, the organization’s CTO. “We have had very few departures.” he also told L’Usine Digitale.

One thing is for sure, lobbying efforts do not spare internal discussions. “The task force has been inactive for weeks, months due to intense lobbying,” Francisco Mingorance said in an interview with Politico last July.

Statement by Laurent Lafaye, CEO of Dawex, a French data exchange platform company and partner of the third summit. He talks about “working collaboratively and transparently” while his company chairs one of the working groups, and points out the governance rules – one vote per organization – that will not allow any member to “get around” the conversations.

Francesco Bonfiglio indicated that 2023 should be marked by more activities organized by Gaia-X to showcase other tangible results. The organization also aims to continue its presence in Europe and hopes to grow from 15 national centers to 27.

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