Scaleway slams the door on the Gaia-X European cloud project

Scaleway announced on November 18, 2021 its intention not to renew its membership with Gaia-X in 2022, an association with the ambition to offer cloud offerings in Europe. “We no longer believe in it“, justifies Arnaud de Bermingham, president and founder of Scaleway, with The Digital Factory. “We prefer to focus on our speed and our ability to recruit the best talent rather than spending the time of our engineers in work groups that are largely in the hands of dominant players and where ensuring that everything will be slow or will be complicated.“, he argued.

The French cloud provider, a subsidiary of Iliad (Free) that claims more than 100,000 customers, is one of the founding members of this association. His decision came as the association’s second annual summit, which took place in Milan on November 18 and 19, sparked controversy over the sponsorship of the event by Huawei, Alibaba, Microsoft and AWS. Only non-European players.

In a Franco-German initiative, Gaia-X aims to offer a coherent European cloud computing offering by defining infrastructures and services based on very specific criteria. The association works in working groups divided into key themes selected according to identified market needs. At Scaleway, “5 to 6 engineers“more than 400 employees (half of them engineers) are dedicated to Gaia-X.


Initial tensions
But from the very beginning, “there was alignment with the main lines of the project, less in the way of manufacture“, said Arnaud de Bermingham. First problem: the constitution of the board of directors of the association. The choice of members is particularly important because it makes the decision of Gaia-X.

The president of Scaleway said there was “angry enough“so that”board“excluded”dominant player“. Without naming names, he refers here to the major cloud players: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, which capture 69% of the European market, according to a Synergy Research study. Group. “We threatened to leave at that time because there was a serious misunderstanding, his confession. We want to keep the board in the hands of European players with European capital. “

Omnipresent non-European companies
However, this was not the choice that was finally made. Of the 64 candidates, 24 people were selected, including seven women. Alongside Frederic Etheve (OVHcloud), Aude Gauthier-Moreau (BNP Paribas), Martine Gouriet (Electricité de France), Vincent Guesdon (Orange), associations representing the sector were also elected. These include DigitalEurope and the Cloud Infrastructure Services Provider In Europe (CISPE), which count among their members large foreign technology companies, such as AWS, Apple, Google, Huawei …

Having non -European cloud providers doesn’t stop there. Among the more than 300 Gaia-X members, we find Salesforce, Palantir, Oracle, Palo Alto, Microsoft, Amazon or Google. That the president of Scaleway says “these dominant players are not directly represented everywhere: in working groups, by board members, etc.“.

This situation was widely criticized to the point that the French Gaia -X Hub – which brings together French hub actors – tried to clarify the situation in a column published in The world May 6, 2021. Bernard Duverneuil, president of Cigref (an association of major public digital players), and Gérard Roucairol, honorary president of the Academy of Technologies, explained that a company’s membership in the European association “nothing is said about registration“in his services “in the catalog of services labeled Gaia-X“.

The question of extraterritoriality of American law
In fact, in order to be registered in the catalog, the offer proposed by the company must be labeled Gaia-X with respect to very precise details. One of the major issues has been the extraterritoriality of U.S. law since the Privacy Shield’s invalidation. On this topic, Hubert Tardieu, chairman of the board of directors of Gaia-X. stated that the association is in contact with the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (Cnil). It called Gaia-X to “Invent a label that will allow it to ensure that data does not leave European territory“.

Therefore, at some point, it is entirely possible that US and Chinese vendors will still be members of Gaia-X but will not have any of their offers listed in the catalog. Thus, “they are there a little to listen to what is going on and to feel the wind“, detailed Hubert Tardieu.

But then why accept the membership of such companies if eventually they didn’t bring anything? This is important, Hubert Tardieu argues. One of the goals of Gaia-X is to promote data sharing between ecosystems. To make this possible, “the data must be in the cloud“. Gold,”75% of the cloud offer is made by Gafa. Therefore, not having them on board condemns us to being an actor who fits an offer over which he has no control.“, He added.

A dangerous slowness in a skipping market
Moreover, for Arnaud de Bermingham, the problem is not the presence of non-European players within Gaia-X, as “the complexity of the dominant actors to ensure that the initiative is as slow as possible and to protect their own interests”. However, in this regard, time is of the essence: “the speed of Gaia-X is not the speed of the cloud market that will represent in two years more than 300 billion dollars“. And Europe has no time to lose.

The president acknowledges this: American companies “obviously with a richer ecosystem“. This situation is explained by the delayed adoption of the cloud in Europe.”almost 10 years“vs. the United States.”American players have been growing for at least 15 years. We have been working for many years with almost no growth“, he says.

Close to Google Cloud, OVH defends Gaia-X
But some Gaia-X members have a more optimistic outlook, such as OVHcloud, also a founding member. In a statement responding to Scaleway’s decision, the Roubaix -based company explained that it was “when you shouldn’t give up“more “on the contrary, to intensify efforts because we are at a crossroads“. He added that.”It is now and in the coming months that the future of one of the most promising European sectors is at stake“.

OVHcloud’s position is not surprising. In fact, it signed a partnership with Google Cloud in November 2020, the goal of which is to offer the American giant’s services while ensuring that data is stored on the French company’s servers. An offer that meets the government’s ambition to allow American companies to market their offers in the form of licenses granted to French hosts. That’s why Orange signed with Microsoft and Thales with Google.

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