24. Juni 2021, 11:20 Uhr | Ute Häußler
The sovereign Gaia-X data infrastructure promises secure digitization for European companies - and yet vacillates between hope and trepidation. The hurdles still seem huge as to how exactly the mega-project will be put into practice. We shed light on expectations and fears in a survey.
Gaia-X aims to bring data-driven business models to industrial sector, manufacturing and SMEs. For Andreas Weiss of the German Internet Industry Association Eco, as coordinator of the EU initiative, Gaia-X is about the edge and a decentralized approach. »On the shopfloor, it's about quantity, quality and cost. Gaia-X, as sovereign data sharing in autonomous, self-determined groups based on a federated principle and with data rooms as 'infrastructure as a service,' is a much-needed alternative blueprint to the hyperscalers.«
In the last 20 months, after presenting the major European project at the Digital Summit 2019, committees were established, funding concepts installed and new members committed to the European standards. On June 7, the new, 24-member Board of Directors was elected under the leadership of Maximilian Ahrens, the German CTO of T-Systems. As the technical basis, four so-called Federation Services were defined in a first specificiation round.
Data protection and IP expert Susanne Dehmel, a member of the management team at digital association Bitkom and part of the new Board of Directors, sees »the concrete integration of federation services (IT) with production technology (OT)« as Gaia-X's »central challenge« on the way to the digital store floor.
The Federation Services are at the heart of Gaia-X's architecture design. The four defined services are about digital identities, available catalog services, sovereign data exchange and compliance. The specification documents for the ecosystem's foundational pillars, released in late May, are publicly available on GitLab and are expected to be converted into source code, the comning alpha version of the Gaia-X software, by the end of the year. »We have to see if this tough goal will be reached,« said Heinz-Joachim Schmitz, IBM's CTO in the DACH region. A 13.5 million Euro funding package is currently allocating 17 work packages to implement the Federation Services.
Andreas Weiss still sees major challenges in putting Gaia-X into practice: »These are thick boards we're drilling.«
For Andreas Weiss of the coordinating Eco association, the resulting software package is thus actually already fixed, but he adds: »In the end, the 17 parts have to fit together. To avoid redundancies and divergences, we will start a second specification phase and reviews in 2022.« The goal, according to Weiss, is to make »minimally invasive adjustments« by reviewing open source code, technical interplay, and API testing in hubs, on demonstrators, and in groups and hackathons.
The Federation Services are »a good basis as a level of agreement and provide a minimum level of security,« says Keran Sivalingam of SmartFactory-KL. The Gaia-X testbed in Kaiserslautern is being used to test how the connection of the infrastructure via Gaia-X can look in practice in terms of programming. The testbed on the store floor is intended to help manufacturers implement Gaia-X »along the general set of rules« and also to take into account domain-specific requirements such as special interfaces for Industry 4.0.