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Data has an increasingly important role in strengthening business models and offering improved public services but much of its potential remains untapped. Data sharing is an essential element to the promise of unlocking new business opportunities and broader economic growth for all industries. Europe has been a leading voice for years on the need to expand industry participation in data sharing. Business-to-business (B2B) data sharing is also a foundational concept of GAIA-X, an initiative to create a federated data infrastructure. Last month a coalition of leading European organizations announced the Eclipse Dataspace Connector (EDC) which is a European open-source project that enables multicloud, policy-based B2B data sharing. The EDC was showcased at the GAIA-X Hackathon in Munich on August 30 – 31, 2021.

Multicloud data sharing across organizations

Transmitting data from one organization to another is a technical problem that has been solved in innumerable ways. What is different about this project? Think about a large manufacturing company with its design organization using engineering software running on AWS, its factory systems running on Azure, its supply chain management systems hosted by SAP, and its custom-built cloud services for sales and marketing hosted by Deutsche Telekom. On top of that, they want to exchange data in their supply chain with their partners who have equally complicated systems. Each company may want to share data, but how to do that across multiple clouds and on-premises systems while remaining respectful of data sharing policies as well as privacy and security laws? In addition, what identity management system can support data sovereignty and federation requirements?

The EDC is made up of open-source components that enable multicloud, policy-based, federated data sharing based on European data sovereignty principles. Every party associated with the sharing and consumption of data needs to have a valid digital identity that provides them the level of sovereignty they desire based on their organizational requirements. Each party also needs to be able to declare the policies under which they are willing to exchange data and be able to enforce them. And ultimately, the sharing of data needs to be secure and efficient.

Enabling data innovation for modern business

Banks develop and provide cloud financial services, media content providers have cloud streaming services, airlines offer cloud ticketing and flight services—most modern businesses are cloud providers to their customers. Thus, every business—every cloud provider—will need to enable trusted data sharing. There are other problems that will need to be solved such as data semantics and the internal governance practices associated with the business decisions for sharing or receiving data. But putting the first layers of this complex structure in place is a significant step forward for enabling data innovation-based growth.

The fact that it is a European solution, governed by a European open-source software foundation, and led by organizations committed to protecting European values is critical to its acceptance in the GAIA-X process. Microsoft is pleased to support this project along with Fraunhofer Institute for Software and Systems Engineering ISST, Daimler TSS, BMW Group, Deutsche Telekom, Amazon AWS, SAP, Bosch, HPE, ZF Friedrichshafen and GAIA-X AISBL as well as the International Data Spaces Association.

Learn more about the Eclipse Dataspace Connector

During the recent showcase in Munich, the community demonstrated the first operational implementation of the EDC and laid out the next phase of work. Solving cross-organizational, cross-cloud provider challenges will be a journey in which we’re pleased to participate alongside customers, partners, competitors, and policymakers. If you want to go far, go together. The EDC community will need the contributions of many more bright minds. Check out the GitHub repository—please jump in and start contributing. Open collaboration is what it will take to realize the opportunities of the digital economy which lie ahead.

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