European cloud computing 'moonshot'

1 min read

France and Germany are to back plans to create a cloud computing ecosystem that looks to reduce Europe’s dependence on the likes of Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

The Gaia-X project will look to establish common standards for storing and processing data on servers that are sited locally and that comply with the European Union’s laws on data privacy.

Described as a ‘moonshot’ by the German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, the project aims to reassert Europe’s technological sovereignty and involves over 20 French and German companies. The driving force behind the project is the issue of data sovereignty and the refereeing of a common set of European rules, bringing the flow and storage and data under greater European control.

While its supporters claim that it should not be seen as a competitive threat to the US giants, those behind it argue that as society relies more heavily on digital services, it is in Europe’s interest to enable a certain level of independence from external service providers, For example, the US Cloud Act requires American firms to provide legal authorities with customers’ personal data on request, even when the servers containing the information are located abroad.

GAIA-X is expected to have several layers, one an application layer which users will interact with and then an infrastructure layer, comprising of interconnected data centres creating a virtual European cloud infrastructure.

The idea’s appeal is that it will enable users to exercise far greater control over their data and the way it is distributed and provide them with more ‘bargaining-power’ when dealing with the US tech giants.

The move has been described as too late in a market that is worth $228bn and already dominated by the like of AWS, Microsoft and Google, who, despite critics, are providing what most would call a ‘pretty good service’.

This is an issue solely about data sovereignty.

Should sovereignty be defined by territorial borders and could Gaia-X actually undermine the advantages of cloud computing by restricting freedom of choice? Will a giant European cloud operator end up stifling innovation?

This is part of a much broader discussion about how the global economy works and it’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the months and years ahead.