“France must have a trusted cloud because data is strategic. A large part of the economic value of the 21st century will be based on data, which is why it is essential to protect it,” said Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy, as a preamble to the presentation of the national strategy for a sovereign cloud. From this strategy comes the desire to create a label that would guarantee that cloud companies protect data. A major challenge, which reflects the government’s awareness to better protect data that has become vital to the functioning of the state, especially following the health crisis. And while in Europe, the cloud computing market has recorded a growth of 27% per year between 2017 and 2019, according to a white paper published in April by KPMG, the market, which is estimated at 53 billion euros for 2020, should reach 300 to 500 billion euros by 2027-2030 and generate more than 500,000 direct jobs. It is 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 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. And while data is considered as the new oil, the goal of a sovereign cloud is to foster the emergence of a data economy while reducing enterprises’ dependence on U.S. cloud providers. According to a recent IDC survey1 conducted globally, 69% of companies surveyed believe that confidential data is extremely vulnerable when stored in a commercial public cloud (Azure, AWS, Google, etc.) Also, 42% feel very concerned about critical data being managed by U.S. cloud providers, given the changing geopolitical landscape. In light of these concerns, 63% of them believe it is therefore critical to have a cloud solution that provides full jurisdictional control and authority over the data. These results illustrate the challenges that enterprises face and their growing need to regain control of their data through a sovereign cloud.
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 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 necessarily a foregone conclusion. France itself has 300 providers of cloud or hosting services within the country. These are players who have solutions already operating, in production and in step with the needs of their customers. These actors can also ensure data reversibility, and therefore are able to migrate an application to the place it needs to be. This agility is not a luxury by any means, at a time when “by gaining time, we gain new markets”2, 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 for public 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.