Emerging from the shadows of the last 18-months has reinforced the notion that we’re ‘better together’. Despite sharing many national borders, how we live and work has become increasingly borderless. As we collectively reset in the aftermath of the pandemic and other macro events such as Brexit we are presented with the opportunity to reimagine how we share, use and store data to create an improved ‘digital Europe’ and to define ‘digital borders’. This is the driving force behind Gaia-X.
Bound together by Gaia-X
Francesco Bonfiglio, CEO, Gaia-X project, has himself described it as “the rebirth of the data economy in Europe through the creation of a secure, sovereign, transparent infrastructure based on the principles of sovereignty, freedom of circulation of data, guarantee of the supplier, as well as quality and security for the technology consumer”. While the vision is impressive, the impact to local cloud providers, who are central to the transport, safety, security and access to data, is more so. In Bonfiglio’s words, “the first advantage of a local operator is to be able to federate with other local operators and other European operators to build a much more powerful offer”. Put simply, there is a great opportunity for small operators to sit at the table with the big ones, or indeed for cloud providers to combine their services in a more federated way.
This is being demonstrated by the partnership between OVHcloud, a French-based hyperscale cloud provider, and Constellation, a French-based multi specialist IT group, in areas of interoperability, reversibility and portability. Constellation provides cloud managed services like outsourcing and multi-cloud architectures to end customers. OVHcloud delivers public and private cloud products, shared hosting and dedicated server solutions in 140 countries worldwide. It’s a partnership that simply makes sense because each brings a complimentary skill set and area of expertise. But underpinning this development is that all parties, including VMware, are members of Gaia-X. It also means this relationship is not limited to a single project so has enormous potential because it is being built today to last in perpetuity as part of this European-wide directive.
An exemplary partnership
It comes at a critical moment. Today, everybody involved in Gaia-X is talking about connectivity and interoperability but we need to demonstrate it. This partnership is the first approach that delivers something tangible – which is why it is so important.
Until now, the segmentation of cloud services has largely been split into two categories. On the one hand you have cloud hyperscalers with the capability to extend platforms in a decentralised model but the full stack of their functionalities is only available in their own data centers. On the other there is a series of individual cloud service providers, each with their own capacity and portfolio far smaller than hyperscaler. Many businesses are reluctant to choose the second option for business-critical applications. For businesses and governments, the choice is not a simple one. They’re either faced with a foreign/Non-EU solution which has ramifications around data sovereignty or developing local. It’s an uncomfortable situation which means having data managed by a hyperscaler or using a local provider that does not have the dynamic scalability requirements and richness and variety of modern services.
We know from experience that customers will not use a single service provider. They are using multiple clouds to build an hybrid cloud which makes reversibility and/or interoperability difficult. According to this study by Statista, businesses are forecast to be using anywhere between seven and 11 cloud solutions by 2023.
First of a kind approach
The partnership between OVHcloud and Constellation is so important because it sits in between the two current offerings. Data can be hosted on a common peer to peer framework that ensures the compatibility of architecture between cloud providers, which means that organisations can place their data with any of the participating cloud providers to take full advantage of services they offer while retaining the ability to move or federate the data on other cloud provider platforms as required. End user organisations can choose multiple different cloud service providers as part of the 2,000+-strong VMware Cloud Provider Program (VCPP) in Europe- a global ecosystem of service providers, all united with one ubiquitous, digital platform that enables them to consume VMware solutions on a pay-as-you-grow model.
The collective of European providers can combine to create a large set of capabilities and it serves as an alternative model to the hyperscalers. They not only have a wider choice but can ensure they keep the future in their own hands by maintaining sovereignty and control over their data and applications. This is because all cloud providers share this one common architecture so apps and workloads can be moved, stored, shared and access across multiple clouds, offering this interoperability, reversibility, and access across any participating cloud.
This is such a unique element of this partnership. It will provide a combination of interoperability, reversibility, and data protection. In doing so it will provide a distributed model for European needs that can be leveraged for many use cases. Aside from that, it is also the first project of its kind where Gaia-X principles are embraced so it will also act as a bellwether for the project.
The ultimate benefit
The value of choice means enterprise and Governments are in the driving seat and can move data and applications with far more ease than previously possible.
- It will provide improved resilience as they will be able to manage data much more dynamically (something the pandemic has underlined the importance of).
- It offers improved positioning for businesses, too, by reducing vendor lock-in – they will now be able to maximise the competition between the different providers.
- As a result, it also means businesses are in a better position to scale because they can make a choice with a scalable capacity.
- The challenge of technical debt has also been reduced because now clients can keep control of their investment on data and infrastructure and avoid tech debt created by lock-in.
To give an idea of scale, we estimated, this year, VCPP providers collectively will provide $5-7 billion worth of services in the market. But realising this vision is predicated on trust. From an app to infrastructure, clients need to know that security is intrinsic. Francesco Bonfiglio has previously stated, “trust in technology is greater than trust in humans and creating trusted architectures that cannot be corrupted in any way by humans is a goal of Gaia-X”.
A globally collaborative story
The beauty of this model is that it is not Europe v US but a customer-centric model where the customer has options and freedom. This partnership has created a distributed service model for European needs where multiple cloud providers can come together under the auspices of a framework that can be leveraged for many use cases. In doing so it has created a new way of interacting and collaborating between different cloud service providers.
This can be possible only because all VCPP partners share a common infrastructure based on VMware that enables portability, sovereignty, reversibility, transparency and other benefits. Of course, the last word should be from Francesco Bonfiglio who said, “technologies such as VMware are natively compatible with Gaia X because they allow the realization of those principles, in particular portability, reversibility, interoperability, which are required by the architecture we are implementing.”