What is Gaia-X, the Franco-German European cloud project?

Bruno Le Maire, Minister of Economy and Finance, and Peter Altmaier, German Federal Minister of Economy and Energy announced Thursday May 4, 2020 the creation of a governance entity to develop Gaia-X , a European cloud ecosystem. This project, which was launched in Germany in 2019, quickly integrated France into the discussions and is structured a little more today with this governance entity.

Gaia-X does not aim to create something completely new but to establish common rules and standards on which companies can base themselves to add their value proposition. Ultimately, the ecosystem wants to combine European and non-European players offering cloud infrastructure and / or services. For the moment Gaia-X has 22 founding members (see box), Franco-German companies, who will have to work on the substance of this project.

Establish transparency attributes

“Gaia-X seeks to operate in a decentralized manner and to federate existing service and infrastructure providers”, explains Cédric Prévost, director of trusted cloud solutions at Orange, at L’Usine Digitale. The challenge is therefore to establish a repository that lists mandatory attributes.

The founding members:

In France : Orange, OVHcloud, Scaleway (Illiad), Atos, Docaposte, Outscale, Institut Mines-Télécom, CISPE association, EDF, Amadeus, Safran

In Germany : Deutsche Telekom, SAP, German edge cloud, DEC-X, Siemens, Bosch, Beckhoff, BMW, Fraunhofer institute, IDSA association

For example, the companies surveyed will have to declare where the data is stored and the data centers are located, specify whether they are subject to regulations such as the GDPR or the American Cloud Act, state under which standards they operate, etc. Cédric Prévost speaks “mandatory transparency attributes”. Customers will be able to search for the appropriate supplier according to the criteria that interest them via a search engine. (on the model of this demonstrator).

Foster interoperability and portability

“In addition, the ecosystem will have to ensure a form of interoperability”, adds Cédric Prévost. This will involve the creation of a ‘Gaia-X repository’ which will identify a set of services. The latter must respond to attributes set in advance to promote transparency, in particular with regard to applicable regulations, with an interoperability standard to facilitate the exchange and sharing of data within the ecosystem. Gaia-X also aims to streamline exchanges and promote portability and data sharing. “A customer can easily store their data at supplier A and use the services offered by supplier B”, sums up Cédric Prévost.

By the end of the year, Gaia-X must have implemented the first concrete use cases. An ambitious schedule. To achieve this, members must first set the rules (the attributes retained, the associated technical standards, etc.), find out how to control the correct application of these rules and define the common standard that will be used to promote interoperability. . As for this standard, the goal is to use what already exists and possibly adapt it a little but not to invent something new.

European scale, an asset

Why could Gaia-X succeed where many companies and states have failed? “Many sovereign cloud projects failed because they had a national positioning and addressed a too limited market, says Cédric Prévost. As a bonus, the objective is not to create the European AWS, but a federation of existing services and solutions “. “Non-European actors must also be an integral part of this project”, he adds.

Another advantage comes from the founding members themselves, who include not only service and infrastructure providers but also major customers such as EDF, Amadeus, Safran, BMW, Bosch, Beckhoff and even Siemens. Customers whose impressions and returns are essential for this project to work.


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