GAIA‑X – Your own cloud is the best cloud but why?

Fran­ce and Ger­ma­ny have deci­ded to deve­lop a European cloud. Towards the end of last year, news sto­ries were alrea­dy trum­pe­ting their Gaia‑X pro­ject as a chal­len­ger to the cloud giant Ama­zon. And the­re is a modi­cum of truth in it. One of the project’s objec­tives is inde­ed for European indus­try and public admi­nis­tra­ti­on to get a tigh­ter grip on its own data.

Howe­ver, the most inte­res­ting aspect of the pro­ject is its goal to impro­ve data manage­ment regard­less of whe­ther the data is loca­ted in a company’s own machi­ne room or someo­ne else’s. At best, the Gaia‑X cloud could faci­li­ta­te the reli­able sharing of decen­tra­li­sed data. And that could in turn encou­ra­ge European indus­tri­al com­pa­nies and cities to pro­vi­de data for ser­vices that could streng­t­hen Europe’s com­pe­ti­tiveness.

For examp­le, an inter­na­tio­nal logistics ser­vice could requi­re infor­ma­ti­on about traf­fic volu­mes, the wea­ther, and the con­di­ti­on of trucks. The­re could easi­ly be nume­rous par­ties invol­ved and nego­tia­ti­ons would mushroom out of con­trol – not to men­ti­on the tech­ni­cal solu­ti­ons. In con­trast, the Gaia‑X cloud pro­ject could end up being down­right easy, if and when its con­trac­tu­al models and tech­ni­cal trans­fer solu­ti­ons have been spe­ci­fied, and reli­able par­ties have been cer­ti­fied. We would only need to turn on the tap and let the data flow in a con­trol­led man­ner.

A gre­at deal of spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­on work still lies ahead, but thank­ful­ly a lot is alrea­dy behind us. Alt­hough the Gaia‑X pro­ject has only just been laun­ched, Euro­pe has long been pro­mo­ting the reli­able exchan­ge of data with retai­ned ownership. For the last four years, a Ger­man-based com­mu­ni­ty of com­pa­nies and rese­arch insti­tu­tes cal­led the Inter­na­tio­nal Data Space Asso­cia­ti­on (IDSA) has been focu­sing on this area in par­ti­cu­lar. Several Fin­nish com­pa­nies also belong to this com­mu­ni­ty, with VTT acting as the Fin­nish IDSA Hub. I would be extre­me­ly sur­pri­sed if Gaia‑X doesn’t bene­fit from the ground­work done by this com­mu­ni­ty, such as deve­lo­ping open stan­dards.

Many Fin­nish indus­tri­al com­pa­nies are cur­r­ent­ly com­ing up with their own data solu­ti­ons. Some are buil­ding clo­sed eco­sys­tems, while others are har­n­es­sing com­mer­ci­al cloud infra­st­ruc­tu­re. Good. Alt­hough it’s hard­ly worth sit­ting still and wai­ting for the Gaia‑X cloud to appe­ar, it’s worth stay­ing open to the idea. It’s important for us to par­ti­ci­pa­te in European col­la­bo­ra­ti­on, and we’re rea­dy to be in the van­guard when it comes to European infra­st­ruc­tu­re.

Fin­nish com­pa­nies that pro­vi­de data-sharing ser­vices should be espe­ci­al­ly proac­tive. The­se types of com­pa­nies are sprin­ging up at a rapid rate, and Gaia‑X will open up European-wide mar­kets for them. Around a hund­red major indus­tri­al com­pa­nies and ser­vice pro­vi­ders are alrea­dy par­ti­ci­pa­ting in the Gaia‑X pro­ject in Fran­ce and Ger­ma­ny. Now it is time for Fin­land to join in and seek oppor­tu­nities to crea­te examp­les of com­pli­an­ce with the new stan­dards.

Gaia‑X will not sol­ve all our pro­blems. Deba­te over who will own the data in an indus­tri­al value chain con­ti­nues. And along­si­de it, dis­cus­sion over pri­va­cy issu­es sur­roun­ding per­so­nal data. Befo­re long the­se con­ver­sa­ti­ons will mer­ge. Data is not any­mo­re con­cep­tual­ly divi­ded into per­so­nal data or indus­tri­al data – it is sim­ply data who­se pro­ces­sing requi­res a set of rules and a plat­form that will pro­vi­de the best way of com­ply­ing with tho­se rules.

By Tuo­mo Tuik­ka from VTT, faci­li­ta­tor of the Fin­nish IDSA Hub