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Gaia-X Essentials

This page shall explore and clarify 6 main questions frequently asked about Gaia-X:

  1. What the association shall be and does
  2. What is sovereignty and the relationship with institutions
  3. What is the relationship between Gaia-X and extra-European Operators, in particular Hyperscalers
  4. Role in the context of IPCEI, RRF and of other public funding initiatives
  5. Data spaces objectives and deliverables within Gaia-X
  6. Role of the Hubs and relationship with Gaia-X

1.  What the association shall be and does

Context

As stated in our articles of association, "The Association has as its non-profit purpose, both in Belgium and abroad, alone or in collaboration with third parties, the promotion and facilitation of a federated data infrastructure and open software infrastructure to provide and operate federated cloud services which are based on European values for the data economy in order to strengthen the digital sovereignty of the Single European Market, allow sustainable advancement of benefits and potentials of data sharing, and create a common data ecosystem for users and providers in various public, industry and research domains.".

Gaia-X addresses all actors of the data market - users, providers of technology, research institutions, private and public institutions, providing three main outcomes:

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What Gaia-X is and what it is not

Gaia-X aims to create a federated data infrastructure based on European values of data and cloud sovereignty. The mission of Gaia-X is to specify the requirements, design the architecture and implement the SW components necessary to connect multiple participants in a federation, ensure interoperability across them, guarantee transparency and controllability of services through a common description format, common identity management and common compliance verification mechanisms.

In simple terms, Gaia-X develops an interconnection across service providers and service users, to ensure trust amongst the two thanks to a technology layer that implement the values of sovereignty, transparency, openness, interoperability, and reversibility of the data.

Central to this mission is Gaia-X’s ability to generate labels, which are the evidence of the compliance of a certain service to a specific set of rules (rulebook) defined by the AISBL or by an external entity. Labels can only be assigned to a service, and not to a provider, thus ensuring that the compliance can only be obtained through the Labelling Framework verification mechanisms.

Labels constitute a facilitation in the procurement of services and an effective method to build trust between users and providers. Searching for services with a certain label, users will be guaranteed to fulfill a series of complex verifications in conformity with the Gaia-X requirements, without having to assess or interact with several CA (Certification Authorities) or CAB (Conformity Assessment Bodies).

 Through the definition of Labels, and their verification through the technology framework, Gaia-X offers the possibility to certify their services to any provider willing to operate in the European market, based on their willingness to expose their service description according to a common standard, adopt a common identity management and be inspected according to common rules to then publish the result of their service characteristics in a commonly readable register. Label owners could be on different types (sector specific or country specific, with Gaia-X owning itself 3 different basic labels  Level 1, Level 2, level 3 ), having defined a basic labels a set of criteria called ‘verifiable credential’.

Gaia-X Association will not deliver any service, nor will it operate under its legal entity any service of the Gaia-X framework, that will be by default decentralised and run across the network of Gaia-X participants. In this way, there won’t be any conflict of interest with any potential Gaia-X user or provider. It will not become a market operator, with the implied intention of selling, operating or distributing its own cloud license on the data market. Equally, it will not aim at building its own market infrastructure, with the implied intention of becoming a provider of cloud applications and/or services within the European market of data.

Gaia-X will design the specifications and develop the necessary technology components to make all the above possible for users and providers in the market to develop their own common data spaces and common infrastructures.

2.  What is sovereignty and the relationship with institutions

The Gaia-X architecture document defines the concept of data sovereignty as the capability, for participants of the data market, to be entirely self-determined regarding the exchange and sharing of data and the ability to take educated decisions on services that adhere to specific technical characteristics and European or national regulations of their choice.

To this technical definition should be added the understanding of European sovereignty as the independence from potential influence from extra-European jurisdictions (e.g. the Cloud Act), as well as the ability to process and store the data in an European location. This definition of sovereignty is related to legal and political terms that cannot be under the control of the Association.

Therefore, Gaia-X will not claim a service to be ‘Immune’ from a certain jurisdiction, but will instead specifically provide in its level 3 label a series of verifiable credentials that will help to determine, the level of immunity and timely adapt to the upcoming needs for the verification of new regulations.

Sovereignty and European sovereignty in the sense described above is an essential element of the Gaia-X approach. It is the reason why our goal is to foster a strong level of innovation for European data, so that we can get rid of our dependence and in turn impose our own rules for the European market.

To ensure sovereignty, Gaia-X will therefore:

  • Define rules on which data are treated on our markets
  • Define common standards for European operators and users to interact with non european players
  • Provide independence from non european jurisdictions for our operators and users (e.g. cloud act)

In order to become real, Gaia-X must be operated in the market. The way to foster strong and fastly-growing levels of innovation across the European market of data is to encourage the creation of data space projects that leverage the exchange of data across multiple sectors and using Gaia-X compliant infrastructure platforms.

Nowadays on average only 26% of the European data and applications are in the cloud, which in turn means almost 80% of our data cannot be eschanged. The main reason for this is the lack of common rules behind dominant players, and their lock-in effect. The trust provided by common rules of security, transparency, controllability and interoperability introduced by Gaia-X, will boost the move to the cloud and accelerate the creation of data spaces to grow digital economy.

For that reason Gaia-X, through its federated approach, will allow for the creation of a sovereign European offer that can make use of an existing technology provider, whilst providing the necessary evidence on the characteristics of the service provided, such as the independence from extra-european legislation. Our approach of building a common standard open to all, will make European players stronger increasing their competitiveness through federations and united in front of the extra-europeans, whilst remaining coherent with our core values and the rules of competition of the European Commission.

3.  What is the relationship between Gaia-X and extra-European Operators, in particular Hyperscalers

The objective of Gaia-X is to define what sovereignty means and how it shall be applied  in our data market by ensuring controllability of service characteristics, and visibility of their independence from extra-european legislation or access from extra-european actors. This endeavor has been publicly and repeatedly supported by public institutions as one of the important evolutions supporting a more general development towards European sovereignty. European users will require Gaia-X compliant services, and extra European players will be free to adapt to our sovereignty framework to operate in Europe.

The Gaia-X framework will define common service descriptors, common service compliance verificators and common service registers accessible to all for inspection. Gaia-X labels will be assigned only to services (not operators) verified to be compliant through the Labelling Framework. Extra European players will be able to propose services with label 1 and label 2 , but the set of criteria imply that the extra European players cannot be the main providers of the service labelled level 3 although they can cooperate with the main provider of the service.

Although not a formal Standardisation Body, Gaia-X can be considered a ‘standard setting organisation’ that aims to define common standards for all its members and to make the de-facto standards in the market. For this reason we accept the presence of any company (even extra-european) that wish to accept our statues and want to implement our values, the protection of which is guaranteed by a series of rules implemented in the association, that guarantee equal opportunity to all members regardless of their size and geography, but preserves the guidance and leadership to a Board of Directors that can only be composed by European Headquarted members.

Looking at the technology side, non-European actors are therefore welcome to join Gaia-X and to develop or adapt their existing services according to the Gaia-X standards and specifications. This will not prevent them to operate in the European market, but will force them to be compared to other players on the basis of the Gaia-X parameters.

In this way every user – being a private company or a public administration – will be able to classify their data in terms of their impact to strategic assets or services of a sovereign state and then adopt Gaia-X services that are qualified to treat to those classification levels.

As an example, the treatment of standard levels of confidentiality or impact, might not require the segregation of data onto a specific territory, whilst healthcare or social insurance data of citizens should be stored and processed within the state territory or within the EU. Through Gaia-X it will be possible to verify and tag (Label) the characteristic or a specific service to ensure it complies with the required level of label. This governance and control layer provided by Gaia-X allow then for the co-existence of multiple providers instead of exluding any of them but preventing the adoption of non-compliant services.

As an example, we show how to differentiate data according to the level of confidentiality and the different types of clouds, with stringent segregation rules, that might be required to treat those data. In this example non-European CSP could not provide services for the most confidential data, but only through the implementation of Gaia-X compliant services and  it will be possible to objectively verify the service characteristics,  and therefore the compliance, of both European or non-European services.  

Process and requirements shall be adapted to the level of confidentiality of the data.

At a standard data level, non European members will have to abide by the main operational stands of interoperability, transparency and reversibililty of the data, which will be checked with the level 1 and level 2 labels.

Confidential and strategic data must be protected from interference of extra European members/legislation and these guarantees are reflected on level 3 set of criteria that are built by the Gaia-X Association.

4.  Role in the context of IPCEI and other public funding opportunities

Considering that the member states and the European commission are awarding significant amounts of funding via the Digital Europe Program, the Eurizon Europe Program and the RRF, it is important to define the role of Gaia-X in driving or supporting association members in responding to these calls on behalf of Gaia-X.

In that regard, the Gaia-X Association plays a role of information and solicitation of our members to respond to those calls implementing solution in line with Gaia-X architecture and developing Gaia-X services in the market. From a funding institutional angle (EC or member states), Gaia-X can be referenced as a standard to be adopted and can facilitate the demonstration of compliance to the tender requirements relying on the issuing of Gaia-X Labels.

Similar examples have been seen in France, where the sovereignty / security labels introduced by the government (respectively ‘cloud de confiance’ and ‘SecNumCloud’) and delivered by the ANSSI have become the only regulatory obligation for cloud offers to be qualified in public tenders for the modernisation of the public administration.

The same model might apply in Italy with the PSN (Polo Strategico Nazionale) where similarly Gaia-X Labels might facilitate the qualification of services according to the different data criticality classification. Other examples can be imagined when considering the portals used by the public administration in many European countries to provision Cloud services. Through Gaia-X Labeled services users could easily search and find services that are intrinsically coherent to the certification

5.  Data spaces objectives and deliverables within Gaia-X

The main objective of Gaia-X is to create the conditions for an outburst of data within the European market. Key to this is the creation of  data spaces, which are the digital representation of existing physical or natural or industrial or social ecosystems. In a data space, several actors belonging to the same value chain (all suppliers and oem in a supply chain, all public and private transportation in a smart city, all hospitals and laboratories in a healthcare, and so forth) federate each other to exchange data. Given the data space create services and insights that can only be achieved through the federation of the multiple actors, every single actor earns a value in participating to the federation that it could not achieve using its data only.

Gaia-X aims to develop data space projects to create an economy of data in several domains, from private to public sector. Through data space projects, Gaia-X will be developed in the market and Gaia-X services will be made available through marketplaces restricted to the federation participants or open to the outside of the federation.

The Gaia-X Association enables the creation of data spaces through the work of the regional hubs. Each hub has the objective to focus on its regional strategic data spaces, and develop concrete business cases creating consortia of member companies around them.

Gaia-X enabled data spaces allow for:

  • scaling individual solutions to address new customers
  • extending existing solutions with new value propositions
  • combine existing solutions to enable collaborations in ecosystems.

Data spaces can be industry-specific or cross-industries, they can involve multiple player within a territory or across territories, and provide for the only way to reduce physical barriers, reduce time to market, leverage the distributed intelligence and create additional value for all, large and small players, users and providers of technology.

Through data space creation, Europe can leverage the most accessible and highest quality raw material that can reinforce our economy by winning the battle of competitivity in the digital era: high quality data. From automotive to healthcare, agriculture to education, transportation,  energy or finance, the European processes, legislation, and industrial ecosystem feature by far the highest complexity and quality, and therefore are the way to win the battle to competitivity in the creation of high quality digital products and services.

6.  Role of the Hubs and relationship with Gaia-X

The role of Gaia-X Hubs is a crucial component of the Association as they constitute the Gaia-X think tank, where concrete cases of implementation of Gaia-X data spaces are investigated, designed and implemented. Hubs are tightly connected to local governments through the ministry devoted to the Digital Transformation programs. In this way they have a fast track to propose solutions in line with the strategic political initiatives and aligned with the Gaia-X endeavor of the Association and of all other European hubs.

Hubs group together all members from a specific region, users and providers, to work together at designing ideas, whilst implicitely identifying the consortia that will be able to implement those projects. Projects envisaged by hubs receive the endorsement of the Gaia-X Association to ensure competitive advantage in gaining access to local funding initiatives.

Hubs collaborate across different territories to ensure the creation of pan-European data spaces where this is possible. An example everybody understands after the pandemic experience is the importance of a pan-European data space for healthcare, as the only way to obtain free circulation of citizens across borders, trusted verification of pandemic tests, collaboration across researchers and hospitals and a seamless experience of patient caring wihin and across European territories.

Gaia-X hubs have several objectives. Amongst these are:

  • Act as a local ambassador for Gaia-X
  • Identify territory specific needs and high priority data spaces
  • Collaborate with other hubs to develop common pan-European data spaces
  • Make Gaia-X real identifying projects and creating Gaia-X services in the market
  • Help local governments implementing RRF in the most effective way adopting Gaia-X solutions
  •  Promote the participation of new members in the association
  • Provide feedbacks on specific needs and requirement to be implemented in the Gaia-X framework

The combination of Association Committees (Technical Committee, Data Space Business Committee, Policy & Rules Committee) and Regional Hubs, create an ecosystem for translating concepts into reality and receiving continuous feedbacks.

The effectiveness of the Gaia-X project in the industry, the public administrations and the civil society, will BE the sum of all the effort from the Gaia-X network, and the more concrete are the result, the faster will be the creation of a market demand and the final lever effect on the European economy that we aim to.