What CISOs need to know about Europe's GAIA-X cloud initiative

A new cloud platform based on "European values" around data sovereignty, data protection and privacy will be an alternative to the likes of AWS or Azure.

Two figures within a data center / server maze, strewn with clouds.
Gremlin / Getty Images

Europe doesn’t have a strong foothold in the cloud computing space. The rise of cloud hyperscalers out of the US and China—and European reliance on them—combined with an east-west trade war and fears of governments accessing data beyond their own borders is making some in the EU uncomfortable.

To remedy this, a new cloud initiative called GAIA-X from France and Germany looks to help European technology companies compete with the incumbents and offer European CIOs and CISOs a “made in Europe” cloud that provides guarantees around portability and privacy that is safe from foreign governments.

What is GAIA-X?

First announced in October 2019, the GAIA-X project provides a cloud platform that fits “European values” on issues such as data sovereignty, data protection and openness. GAIA-X is designed to be a competitor to cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Rather than creating a purpose-built competitor and building infrastructure from scratch, GAIA-X aims to be part marketplace, part standards and part certification body, offering a catalog of services from existing European vendors that have been adapted and certified to fit its requirements that the customer then contracts with the individual vendor. It plans to do this through a series of federated services and aligning participating network and interconnection providers as well as service providers to GAIA-X’s requirements.

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