GAIA-X, Europe’s Cloud computing project, must step up quickly

Get a free Techzine subscription!

Europe’s attempt to wrest its Cloud fate from US and Chinese providers faces a challenge.

GAIA-X is Europe’s attempt to reclaim its sovereignty in Cloud-computing from tech giants from outside the continent. If the project is to succeed, however, it will need to prove that it is worthwhile in the next few months, according to a new report from analysis firm Forrester. 

“Europe’s destiny” in Cloud computing

GAIA-X was mainly driven by France and Germany. Ministers from those two countries announced a Cloud-computing initiative in 2019. The project was formalized as the GAIA-X Foundation in early October 2020.

The initiative stems from years-long concerns regarding data sovereignty and transparency for non-European-headquartered public clouds. Currently, only 12% of European enterprises chose a European-based public cloud provider. Moreover, Forrester’s research showed more than half of European CIOs have selected AWS, Microsoft Azure, IBM Cloud or Google Cloud. This situation poses a threat to European data sovereignty as well as the privacy of EU citizens, according to the project founders.

Among firms involved in developing the platform are SAP, Deutsche Telekom, Siemens and Bosch of Germany and France’s Atos. European Commissioner Thierry Breton had previously been the head of Atos, and it was he who made the case at a launch event this past June.

GAIA-X is a way “to take our destiny in our own hands”, said Breton. The Foundation also announced a target “live” date for the project of Q1 2021. The deadline is now near, and GAIA-X seems to be slipping behind.

What GAIA-X needs to avoid

According to the Forrester report, the GAIA-X project must not simply be an imitator of providers such as Google or AWS with just a “Made in Europe” label. It’s important that GAIA-X is executed well, they say, lest it miss the real opportunity to address genuine concerns about data sovereignty, transparency, and greater use of open standards.

The report warned that missing key milestone’s could make the entire project a massive failure. “So far, GAIA-X has no active services in the market; its initial services aren’t projected to be available until Q1 or Q2 2021.

“The foundation needs to meet this timetable to avoid irrelevance. Also, what is released must work without serious errors or deployment bugs or else risk losing credibility or market opportunities. It’s a challenging ask that we appreciate, but the window of opportunity is narrowing.”