Unwilling to remain dependent on U.S. and Chinese cloud providers, almost two dozen French and German firms have started a joint venture that hopes to ensure its users will have control over their data when using cloud services.
The project, Gaia-X, is expected to launch next year. It is the work of 22 companies (half German and half French), including Siemens, SAP, Dassault Systemes, Deutsche Telekom and Robert Bosch.
Gaia-X is as much a poke at China’s Alibaba and the U.S.-based Amazon Web Services as it is at the notion that mutually advantageous global data infrastructure standards can be devised today.
A release posted online states that the concept “is a project initiated by Europe for Europe. It aims to develop common requirements for a European data infrastructure.” Contrasting U.S. and Chinese offerings, the document says openness and transparency will be central to Gaia-X’s mission. AWS, for example, has been criticized for promoting its own version of open source software that can lead to customer lock-in.
Core values to go with edge computing
The project will create “the foundations for a federated, open data infrastructure based on European values.” The founding members want to create a homogeneous system capable of matching the capabilities of hyperscaler cloud providers by connecting existing centralized and decentralized infrastructure, according to the statement.
A core value to be addressed with Gaia-X will be ease of data access and sharing securely. Data privacy regulation in the United States puts more power in the hands of companies, compared to Europe’s preferences. And China’s privacy rules can best be described as whatever best benefits that nation’s communist party.
An example of how edge computing would play a role in Gaia-X can be seen in one of the key use cases – Smart Cities. Smart City projects ingest data from cameras, cars, traffic control systems, buildings and many other devices and systems to enable safer, more energy-efficient living spaces. Sharing data between cities across a border might aid in traffic control or an emergency like disaster response but can be complicated by privacy regulations and further hampered by the use of incompatible cloud services. Gaia-X has set a goal of enabling data to be used on different types of infrastructure from different providers while still respecting privacy and security rules.
In January, the Friedhelm Loh Group, in Germany, said that its German Edge Cloud would share resources with the nascent Bauhaus.MobilityLab project.
The lab is a smart city effort focused on logistics, energy and mobility. But just as important to the project is making sure data is stored locally, hence the involvement of the German Edge Cloud service. In scenarios where data needs to be moved to a different location for historical analysis, some data would need to be shipped from edge storage to a different, more powerful central cloud environment. Gaia-X technical standards would come in to play by establishing the use of common mechanisms for moving data across internet exchange platforms, ensuring that compliance over data use, and enabling the use of federated compute services.
The effort has been dubbed by German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier as a “moonshot” that would put Europe on a more equal footing against tech giants, but it also accurately describes how complicated and hard the effort will be.
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