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Businesses, the driving force towards the construction of a sovereign French cloud

One lesson that businesses have taken away from the last fifteen months, is that their growth potential is closely linked to their ability to adapt quickly. So, investment in digital has never been more important. Nonetheless, this dynamic will only be effective once companies have total control of their own data. At present, 92% of data of Western Europe is hosted in the United States (Ref. 1). Digital sovereignty is therefore not a luxury, but the sine qua non for strengthening competitiveness and making it sustainable. While governments are getting to grips with this subject, and the GAIA-X project is coming to fruition, it’s now time for our businesses to address the challenge and make the necessary technology choices. There are solutions available which work and are accessible. What are we waiting for, in order to take control of our own destiny?

Big data is big business

It’s an established fact that the fourth industrial revolution is primarily a digital revolution. In this paradigm, it will be the applications that allow businesses to benefit from the data, and to meet productivity challenges; applications such as supply chain management software in the industrial sector, or telecoms operators’ call centres, for instance. These applications need to be fully secure, as well as totally accessible, available at the right time, in the right place, and on any platform. This means rolling them out in Clouds that provide the environment to meet their needs, while also allowing them to be migrated if necessary. The goal, therefore, is to understand these needs and to choose the right Cloud, public or private, which best suits them. Given these economic challenges, major businesses have already made their choices, outsourcing the operation and migration of their mailboxes for instance, but this raises questions about how their data is processed.

While the GAFAMs are taking up a position as heavyweights in the face of state power – Zuckerberg himself describes this as the enemy to be overcome – governments have a clear interest in engaging with this issue. Aware that data is a crucial factor, businesses are seeking to recover not just ownership but also control of their data, but still do not have the means necessary.

Our technological choices are certainly not trivial

The fact is, there is a real desire for transformation, as shown by the massive investment in the cloud since the start of the pandemic. But neither business nor the State will benefit from this transformation if under-provision of infrastructure maintains dependency. Even nowadays, the economic players tend to forget that their technological changes are by no means neutral and that the resources they adopt determine a logic of “methodological, scientific, calculated and calculating domination”(Ref. 2). So, by turning to the services of the American giants in the public cloud, businesses are unknowingly making themselves vulnerable. In the first place, this is because the Cloud Act passed by the Trump administration authorises legally sanctioned industrial espionage. And secondly, as it is extremely complicated to escape from a contract with one of these major players because without payment of a prohibitive charge, they remain the owners of the hosted data. Finally, because once applications and data have been migrated to public clouds, repatriating them becomes a very lengthy and uncertain process.

Capitalise on French and European proactivity

It would be a mistake to think we could come to terms without these giants: remember the attempts to build a Franco-French cloud. But the deal has changed because the various stakeholders have moved towards greater pragmatism. In particular, the GAIA-X project, supported by French, Italian and German governments, is taking the first steps towards a sovereign, secure cloud, while being open to innovation. Its agnostic architecture is compatible with all solutions, so long as they respect the principles of horizontality and interoperability intrinsic to the project. Its expressed aim is to allow businesses to grow productivity by encouraging collaboration and the exchange of data within sector- based spaces.

We are therefore benefiting from a buoyant environment, in which awareness driven by governments is beginning to find listeners and advocates. This process still needs to be pursued to its limit, creating trust and promoting our local eco-system.

The local eco-system is ready

One fact too often forgotten is that Europe has an extremely diverse and effective eco-system of cloud players. Unlike the thinking widespread in ISDs, themselves taking advice from major integrators who are sometimes by no means neutral, dependency on the American public cloud giants is not the needs of their customers. These actors can also ensure data reversibility, and therefore are able to migrate an application to thee place it needs to be. The agility is not a luxury by any means, at a time when “by gaining time, we gain new market” (Ref.3), and where infrastructure must adapt to applications.

Finally, let us note that all these players will eventually allow their customers to use trustworthy, certified clouds, thus strengthening their competitiveness worldwide.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, but we do need to act quickly: the cloud is a strategic area both authorities and private organisations. We can only repeat the call by Bruno Lemaire, who does not want to let the US and China alone design the 21st century. This ambition can only be realised if our businesses make it possible, through other trusted partners, to build a sovereign cloud.

List of References

  • Ref 1
  • Ref 2: Herbert Mercuse
  • Ref 3: Nicole Aubert, le culte de l’urgence

Written By Hervé Basso, Senior Director, EMEA Cloud Services Partnerships, VMware

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