Gaia-X: a European cloud ecosystem based on common standards
The Gaia-X project was started to provide European companies and citizens with a powerful, secure and trustworthy data infrastructure. The initiative, which was launched in the fall of 2019 by Germany and France, is now backed by many European partners from commerce, science and politics. We consider Gaia-X to be a central cornerstone for a European cloud strategy that we support.
Expectations for Gaia-X are high, as there are now more than 500 manufacturers and organizations from different countries working intensively on the project, including the founding members Atos, BMW, Bosch, Deutsche Telekom, EDF Électricité de France, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Orange, SAP, Safran, Siemens, as well as plusserver. Their common goal is the development of a networked European data infrastructure that can meet the highest demands placed on digital sovereignty and is fit for the future. Data and services can be made available, collated and shared in an open, transparent and digital ecosystem within an environment of trust.
Gaia-X builds on existing initiatives that are already advancing the development of new business models and data spaces in the EU and its member states. These initiatives form the basis for a Gaia-X hub. In a way, the hubs represent the voices of users at the national level.
Their main goal is to establish a European ecosystem that bundles national initiatives and serves as the central point of contact for interested parties in the respective country. All components are in close exchange with one another for the purpose of coordinating internationally, defining requirements, and identifying and overcoming any regulatory hurdles.
Gaia-X builds on the proven strengths of Europe. Among other things, this includes product range diversity and strongly decentralized, medium-sized structures.
Because Gaia-X networks centralized and decentralized infrastructures, every cloud provider can become a Gaia-X hub. Providers must be clearly identifiable and supply a description of themselves, including information on the service they offer, price models or security levels to be certified. A central directory service is intended to help users quickly and securely find the right provider and relevant data pools. Existing activities, such as the data sovereignty initiative from IDS (International Data Spaces Association) or the groundwork by Trusted Cloud for the certification, can be integrated.
Gaia-X is characterized by openness and transparency and builds on the proven strengths of Europe. Among other things, this includes product range diversity and strongly decentralized, medium-sized structures. The many investments in digital technology that are being made throughout Europe can thus be linked and implemented more effectively.
Gaia-X promotes the open-source idea and, on this basis, supports everything that contributes to it, including, of course, people. All those involved work together on defined work packages on a common platform; members and non-members work collaboratively side by side – from the perspective of both the user and the provider.
The name of the project, Gaia-X, was inspired by the blessing-giving goddess of the earth, one of the first deities in Greek mythology. Allegedly, the project founders had rejected designations such as "general artificial intelligence architecture," which is how they came up with the acronym Gaia-X.
Why Europe needs its own cloud project
European politicians and economists have been demanding more digital sovereignty for the EU and its member countries for years. Gaia-X is the approach conceived for a European cloud infrastructure, which is now gaining recognition even beyond European borders.
Companies need security to enable them to act and make decisions independently in digital business. This is by no means a given as the large cloud providers are headquartered outside the EU, where different laws related to data protection and promises of performance apply. Here Gaia-X is calling for a GDPR-compliant data infrastructure as a European supplement to existing offers.
As Gaia-X would like to strengthen the data sovereignty of companies, one of their central building blocks is the use of open-source software, for example the Sovereign Cloud Stack (SCS), which is being further developed for Gaia-X. It is compliant with data protection, certified and compatible with various manufacturers. The SCS is intended to offer European customers a secure and legally compliant alternative to the cloud and platform giants in the USA and China.
As the technical basis for a European cloud ecosystem, the SCS offers features that make it an important pillar when it comes to data and technology sovereignty. The code is intended to ensure transparency, interoperability and independence from third parties to prevent economic and political influence.
SCS is already using standardized OSS components, such as OpenStack and Kubernetes, which Google donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. It also delivers standards for the installation, configuration and operation of a cloud. Every implementation is tested and certified on the basis of reference models. This means that all Gaia-X-compatible clouds are interoperable on a SCS basis.
From the point of view of a cloud provider, SCS is a completely modular and open software environment. It is made up of a range of components and therefore forms a comprehensive cloud and container infrastructure that runs on standard hardware. Thanks to the service network, the user remains completely independent when choosing which services they book from their infrastructure provider. They can choose the services that suit them from a wide range of Gaia-X providers.
European values; the Gaia-X guiding principles
European data protection rights
Gaia-X is striving for a new, legally compliant cloud infrastructure for data traffic within the EU in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Openness and transparency
The project relies on consistently transparent and safe technologies on an open-source basis in an open ecosystem.
Authenticity and trust
Gaia-X participants must obtain certification relating to IT security, service, data sovereignty and their business conditions.
Digital sovereignty and self-determination
Decentralized or distributed data processing via multi-edge, multi-cloud or edge-to-cloud computing paves the way for the IoT, connected cars and intelligent manufacturing.
Free market access and European value creation
The clear commitment to interoperability of the offerings links European companies of all sizes, from industry groups to medium-sized companies to start-ups.
Modularity and interoperability
Interoperability and interconnectivity will ultimately allow value networks to constantly reconfigure themselves both internally and intercompany.
In constant dialogue with users, Gaia-X services are checked for their user friendliness, meaning openness, modularity and ease of use.
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