Gaia-X: A Software Framework on Top of Cloud Infrastructure for and By Multiple Ecosystems

Author photo: Valentijn de Leeuw
By Valentijn de Leeuw


The second Gaia-X Summit was held on 18-19 November, 2021. It was implemented as a hybrid, mainly virtual event, drawing around 4,000 online attendees. Presentations on a wide variety of subjects reflected the complexity of the undertaking. “We are building a spaceship,” said Gaia-X CEO Francesco Bonfiglio in the concluding press conversation. Recent Gaia-X statistics confirm that statement, with the organization growing from 22 to over 300 members in just the past year. The initially two participating countries increased to 25, with 15 local hubs inside and outside Europe.

Where the Gaia-X association provides specifications, policy rules and “labeling,” the local hubs specify use cases grounded in country or region-specific initiatives and priorities. In total, 45 use cases have been defined based on ten data spaces. Five lighthouse projects have also been started. Among the most prominent of these is Catena-X, which will facilitate business process automation and data exchange along “long” value chains in the automotive industry. The setup activities from this first Gaia-X year, will lead to early implementations in the second year, where Gaia-X compliant services will start operating in the market.

This article will describe the Gaia-X architecture, the vision for its future functions, its goals, and roadmap. Focus will be on the feasibility of the project and how far it is on track. Finally, the benefits it could provide will be listed. The perspectives and learnings are based on the presentations ARC Advisory Group personnel attended and the Gaia-X webpages.

A Novel Way to Operate the Internet

Gaia-X is based on the idea that both small and large players should have similar chances to make a living from their services -- that individuals and organizations want full control of their data. This drove Gaia to adopt a distributed and federated approach, where smaller and larger players can make their contributions based on requirements for compliance with interoperability and portability, to create a level playing field without vendor lock-in, with trust built on security, verifiable identities and qualities of services, transparency, and openness.

Cloud Infrastructure

At ARC, we believe the simplest description of Gaia-X is a software framework on top of existing cloud infrastructure, data, or services to ensure trust in the transparency, controllability, and interoperability of services and data supplied and consumed. Gaia-X aims to provide this framework for free and give everybody the possibility to create and offer trusted services, enabling the creation of data spaces that are necessary for a new generation of digital economy based on data exchanges. Gaia-X is convinced that the targeted trust levels will revolutionize the digital world that we know, from business via public services to civil society.

Gaia-X is therefore not a cloud platform, nor does it compete with cloud offerings. Cloud, data, and infrastructure providers can offer their services if they decide to adopt the Gaia-X framework and apply its rules. Gaia-X users and providers of data and technologies will be able to create trusted federations amongst themselves. Federation of secure, transparent, controllable, and interoperable data and services has the potential to create the critical mass of data or technology necessary to compete in the global market with value-adding services based on massive use of data that is currently untapped. The currently available non-transparent, non-controllable, and non-interoperable technologies prevent and slow down the digital data and services economy.

Gaia-X data and services are a combination of infrastructure ecosystems, including compute nodes, storage nodes, connectivity, cloud providers, and data ecosystems (for example data providers, data brokers, data analysis application providers). Infrastructure and data ecosystems can overlap in practice.

Through the Gaia-X framework, many different types of user ecosystems can be created, which can be national, regional, global, industry-focused, or domain focused. Examples include sharing data across healthcare systems, research institutions, or industries. Catena-X is an example of such an ecosystem, creating seamless data integration across the automotive value chain to build the next generation of smart and sustainable vehicles.


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Keywords: Gaia-X Summit, Internet, Infrastructure and Data Services, Federation Services, Standards, Catena-X, Automotive, Ecosystems, ARC Advisory Group.


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