Saturday, June 06, 2020

Yet another Red Queen Project : Franco-German Gaia-X

For some reason, the EU and especially the French government love moonshot project. The only problem is that they tend to be launched after the moon as already been colonized.

Gaia-X is not a moonshot, but a Red Queen project. I use this term in reference to the Red Queen hypothesis or Red Queen effect, which is derived from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass :
Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.

Gaia-X is a Red queen project because the French and German government (and the EU to some extend) are trying to forcefully evolve the digital ecosystem to stay in the same place. Also, because they always launch this initiative way too late or without any long term strategic planning both in term of funding and impact. 

Let's look at Gaia-x and why there is an air of "deja vu". First, it's not a cloud service; it's a "platform" aggregating cloud hosting services from dozens of companies. Does that remind you of anything? Bingo, the European cloud initiative, which aim at : 
"Strengthen Europe's position in data-driven innovation, improve its competitiveness and cohesion, and help create a Digital Single Market in Europe."

This initiative started back in 2012; at the time, I didn't get the strategy and structure of the effort. And unfortunately, I still don't. EU wanted to regulate and impose EU standard to the industry hoping to spruce the EU cloud ecosystem via standards and funding sprinkling. I use the term sprinkling because EU thought that by seeding a constellation of research projects and local initiatives it would magically help sprout an EU cloud giant.

The "standard effort" side of the program seems to have fizzled out. Judge by yourself: The official final report is here.

Gaia-x seems to be an offshoot of the European Cloud Partnership side of the cloud initiative, aiming at increasing trust when using cloud services: 
"it's (Gaia-X) conceived as a platform joining up cloud-hosting services from dozens of companies, allowing businesses to move their data freely with all information protected under Europe's tough data processing rules."

Compounding with the regulatory compliance spin, the project promoters cannot refrain themselves from using the vendor lock-in FUD: 
"One important concept underpinning Gaia-X is "reversibility", a principle that would allow users to switch providers quickly. " 

They conveniently forgot to mention that by using Gaia-x, you will be replacing provider lock-in for platform lock-in. 

If you dig a little bit on the technical side you find out that this reads more like a program to keep academic research institutes busy and rehashes fantasies of dynamically matching service providers to consumers and policies. Dynamic matching was something that was a hot topic in academia during the SOAP times but isn't used at all in practice. Moreover, it doesn't use any established logic programming paradigm and re-invents an ad-hoc service ontology/taxonomy and query language.

Last but not least, one of the glaring omission from the platform is the complete lack of specification regarding a common accounting, payment and monetization of services. Where is the processing and payment service? It is conveniently absent.

Providing an accounting and payment platform for dynamically orchestrated services from a multitude of providers is not only hard. It's near impossible. Without this crucial element, the platform is stillborn.

If France and Germany want to avoid turning Gaia-X into another Qwant. Maybe pivoting the platform to a more niche domain such as a government and large company cloud services procurement platform. This would fit right in the compliance, sovereignty and interoperability narrative as well as the business profile of most of the consortium participants.

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