On 19 July 2021, the European Commission (EC) launched the European Alliance for Industrial Data, Edge and Cloud.
The Alliance aims to foster disruptive cloud and edge technologies that are highly secure, energy and resource-efficient, fully interoperable and trusted by cloud users from all sectors.
This development is a significant step towards achieving the EC’s goals set out in its data strategy, which forms part of its plans for shaping Europe’s digital future, and accords with its Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
The Alliance aims to ensure that emerging cloud and edge technologies:
- respect the highest standards of interoperability, portability, reversibility, openness and transparency, all of which is a response to issues around vendor lock-ins and high switching fees;
- achieve the highest data protection, cyber security and data sovereignty standards, which underlines the EU’s ambition to remain as the first mover and global standard setter on such matters;
- meet the highest energy efficiency and sustainability standards; and
- comply with European cloud best practice, including adherence to codes of conduct and specific certification schemes.
What are the main deliverables expected from the Alliance?
The accompanying declaration says that the Alliance will aim to:
- leverage industry synergies in the research, development and deployment of cloud and edge technologies;
- set out use cases, strategic roadmaps and value-chain gaps;
- carry out market analysis;
- bring businesses and public authorities together on EU investment initiatives;
- help the EC and member states co-ordinate on public-sector cloud procurement and use;
- advise on common standards and requirements for the public procurement of cloud services;
- consult on and develop an EU Cloud Rulebook; and
- create synergies with common European data spaces.
Who can join the Alliance?
Any public or private entity that has a legal presence in the EU and is involved in cloud and edge computing can join the Alliance, subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria set out in the application process.
The application window is open-ended so eligible organisations can join at any time.
What are the expected next steps and how does this fit in the European data protection landscape?
The Alliance is an important development for EU companies involved in edge and cloud computing. In particular, the development of an EU Cloud Rulebook is supposed to help create a harmonised set of standards on security, energy-efficiency, data protection, interoperability and fair competition.
The deliverables produced by the Alliance will not be binding regulations. However, given the lack of clear guidance, they will surely become valuable guidelines for companies operating in the edge and cloud realm (ie following the approach of the Alliance will indicate compliant processing and sustainable operations) and the advice from the Alliance may well flow into upcoming legislative proposals.
The Alliance also forms part of a broader suite of cloud-related initiatives, such as the regulation on the free flow of non-personal data, the recently finalised SWIPO data-portability codes of conduct and the European cyber security certification scheme for cloud services. We will keep these on our radar and report back when there are any developments.