“Too many Power Points, too little action” : How the EU’s ‘Sovereign Cloud’ Is Failing (Like Everything Else the EU does)

DEFENCE & GEO-POLITICS, TECH / Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

From Le Monde Informatique (extracts)

The European sovereign cloud project Gaia-X still faces serious challenges and delays. It should be remembered that the objective of this initiative is to provide European companies with labeled cloud and / or data offers and services that meet high requirements in terms of security and sovereignty in accordance with current European laws.

Contrary to what one might think, Gaia-X does not consist in excluding from its labeling process offers pushed by major players and American and Chinese cloud providers.

A postulate which did not fail to surprise, to pose many questions and to lead one to wonder in the end whether this cloud was ultimately as sovereign as European defense is with NATO.

(See also : ‘US and Chinese tech giants welcomed into ‘EU sovereign’ cloud project‘)

(Lots of detail about the IT infrastructure which is not necessary to understand : In effect, the Gaia project attempts to create a ‘safe-space’ within which data can be processed and shared between multiple service providers)

Despite the progress made around Gaia-X, the European cloud project is not over. Already, it is far behind schedule – the first Gaia-X services should have been available in 2021.

Then, the legal form of the project, necessary for the legal start of activities, also dragged on. While the signing of the statutes of the Association for Data and Cloud (AISBL) took place in September 2020, it was not until February 1, 2021 that AISBL Gaia-X was entered in the Belgian trade register.

(ILR Note: this seems to suggest that the entity behind Gaia is finally not a ‘sovereign’ entity, as of now…)

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, there are still many discussions about the meaning and purpose of the project. In particular, the involvement of the major cloud hyperscalers in the United States and China (Microsoft wants to be a supplier, for example) is causing some controversy given the stated objective of a European cloud independent of Gaia-X. Palantir’s membership in the project has also raised concerns about its data mining activities and close ties to U.S. intelligence services in a supposedly private and sovereign cloud. In addition, the number of contributors, which some reports estimate at 500, slows down critical decision-making.

(Some companies such as Microsoft have lost faith and started developing independent projects which could later integrate into the Gaia Federation)

In the meantime, many companies that had embarked on the Gaia-X adventure with great enthusiasm seem to have lost their illusions. In April 2021, the German newspaper Handelsblatt reported that many start-ups had complained about the excessive bureaucracy within Gaia-X. “The European cloud project is becoming more and more complex and threatens to overwhelm businesses,” said these startups.

(According to various stakeholders interviewed..) there are often abstract discussions about European data sovereignty, but little about the concrete benefits the customer should get. “Too much PowerPoint, too little action” is how (one person) summed it up.

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