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Digital sovereignty gives European cloud a 'window of opportunity'

And US hyperscalers want to shut it ASAP, we're told

OpenInfra Summit The OpenInfra Foundation kicked off its first in-person conference in over two years with acknowledgement that European cloud providers must use the current window of opportunity for digital sovereignty.

This is before the US-headquartered hyperscalers shut down that opening salvo with their own initiatives aimed at satisfying regulator European Union, as Microsoft recently did – with President Brad Smith leading a charm offensive.

Around one thousand delegates turned out for the Berlin shindig, markedly fewer than at CNCF's Kubecon in Valencia a few weeks earlier. Chief operating officer Mark Collier took to the stage to remind attendees that AWS' CEO noted as recently as this April that 95 per cent of the world's IT was not spent in the cloud, but on on-premises IT.

OpenInfra is, however, all about the cloud, and Collier highlighted charts showing that while AWS remained the top cloud provider, the ragtag collection of alternative cloud platforms were gaining steam. At the core of these is the OpenStack platform, with over 180 public clouds running on OpenStack, Collier says.

The diminished size of the conference reflects a little on the importance of OpenStack outside of the European and Asian markets. Sure, Canonical were in attendance but the awarding of Superuser trophies to France-based OVHcloud and China's Ant Group pointed to where the platform is still seeing most action.

Although the mainly US-based hyperscalers continue to wrestle with the privacy and data sovereignty needs of European citizens, OpenInfra reckons it has found itself in somewhat of an enviable position regarding sovereignty.

"I think that we have an opportunity ... " executive director Jonathan Bryce agreed in response to a question from The Register. "There's a moment where people care it about it right now. And we have a responsibility to lean into that moment and actually try to make a difference and set some precedents for whatever is coming next."

"... there is a window," he said, "where, right now, I think that the European legislatures have collectively and individually set some really clear lines in the sand.

"I think the window of opportunity ... is users insisting that we hold the line on what our digital rights are and ... what demands we want to protect our data and our privacy."

As revealed by The Register last month, Microsoft agreed to make concessions regarding its cloud and software licensing policies following several European cloud provider filing anticompetitive complaints against Microsoft with the EU.

With its footprint in public institutions as well as private cloud, OpenInfra has found itself with a chance to compete. A chance that was perhaps less obvious three or four years ago – as long as one is able to actually work the platform.

"The last few releases of OpenStack," said Bryce, "have actually been around scaling operations. Because digital sovereignty is not just about 'what's on my hard drive is my data' at the end of the day. If you want to truly have digital sovereignty, you also need operational sovereignty; you need to be able to actually operate the software in a reliable way so that you can put your data there."

Open source has traditionally been at somewhat of a disadvantage compared to the hyperscalers and their proprietary integrated stacks "because, you know," said Bryce, "you don't worry about that - they take care of it."

However, as evidenced by this week's conference and recent releases of OpenStack, operational sovereignty is very much a focus in terms of upgrades, scalability and uptime. "There's a challenge," admitted Bryce, "the big American tech companies are well resourced to go fight against this kind of thing."

"But I think that we have an opportunity."

AWS, Microsoft and Google will be watching this space carefully. ®

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