3. Gaia-X Ecosystems

3.1 Gaia-X as Enabler for Ecosystems

The Gaia-X Architecture enables Data and Infrastructure Ecosystems using the elements explained in the Gaia-X Conceptual Model, the Gaia-X Operational Model and the Federation Services together with the Gaia-X Trust Framework.

An Ecosystem is an organizing principle describing the interaction of different actors and their environment as an integrated whole, like in a biological ecosystem. In a technical context, it refers to a set of loosely coupled actors who jointly create an economic community and its associated benefits.

Gaia-X proposes to structure a Data Ecosystem and an Infrastructure Ecosystem, each with a different focus on exchanged goods and services. Despite each of them having a separate focus, they cannot be viewed separately as they build upon each other, i.e., they are complementary.

The Gaia-X Ecosystem consists of the entirety of all individual Ecosystems that use the Architecture and conform to Gaia-X requirements. Several individual Ecosystems may exist (e.g., Catena-X in the automotive sector) that orchestrate themselves, use the Architecture and may or may not use the Federation Services open source software.

Gaia-X Ecosystem Visualization

The basic roles of Consumer and Provider are visualized as different squares, while the Federator appears as a connecting layer, offering diverse core Federation Services. Federation Services provide connections between and among the different elements as well as between or among the different Ecosystems. The star-shaped element visualizes that Consumers can act also as Providers by offering composed services or processed data via Catalogues. Governance includes the Policy Rules, which are statements of objectives, rules, practices or regulations governing the activities of Participants within the Ecosystem. Additionally, the Architecture of Standards defines a target for Gaia-X by analysing and integrating already existing standards for data, sovereignty and infrastructure components.

3.2 Goals of Federation Services

Federation Services aim to enable and facilitate interoperability and portability of Resources within and across Gaia-X-based Ecosystems and to provide Data Sovereignty. They ensure trust between or among Participants, make Resources searchable, discoverable and consumable, and provide means for Data Sovereignty in a distributed Ecosystem environment.

They do not interfere with the business models of other members in the Gaia-X Ecosystem, especially Providers and Consumers. Federation Services are centrally defined while being federated themselves, so that they are set up in a federated manner. In this way, they can be used within individual Ecosystems and communities and, through their federation, enable the sharing of data and services across Ecosystems or communities as well as enable the interoperability and portability of data. The set of Ecosystems that use the Federation Services form the Ecosystem. Avoiding Silos

There may be Ecosystems that use the open source Federation Services but do not go through the Compliance and testing required by the Gaia-X Association AISBL. This does not affect the functionality of the Federation Services within specific Ecosystems but would hinder their interaction.

To enable open Ecosystems and avoid “siloed” use of Federation Services, only those that are compliant, interoperable (and tested) are designated as Ecosystems. Therefore, the Federation Services act as a connecting element not only between different Participants, commodities, but also between Ecosystems (see above).

The following table presents how the Federation Services contribute to the Architecture Requirements that are mentioned in section Architecture Requirements.

Requirement Relation to the Federation Services
  • The Federated Catalogues ensure that Providers offer services through the whole technology stack. The common Self-Description schema also enables interoperability.
  • A shared Compliance Framework and the use of existing standards supports the combination and interaction between different Resources.
  • The Identity and Trust mechanisms enable unique identification in a federated, distributed setting.
  • The possibility to exchange data with full control and enforcement of policies as well as logging options encourages Participants to do so. Semantic interoperability enables that data exchange.
  • The Federated Catalogues encourage Providers to offer Resources with transparent Self-Descriptions and make it possible to find the right kind of service that is “fit for purpose” and makes the interaction possible.
  • The open source implementations of the Federation Services provide a common technical basis and enable movement of Resources in ecosystems and across different ecosystems.
  • Common compliance levels and the re-use of existing standards support portability of data and services.
  • Identity and Trust provide the foundation for privacy considerations as well as access and usage rights. Standards for sovereign data exchange enable logging functions and Usage Policies. The Self-Descriptions offer the opportunity to specify and attach Usage Policies for Data Resources.
Security and Trust
  • The Architecture and Federation Services provide definitions for trust mechanisms that can be enabled by different entities and enable transparency.
  • Sovereign Data Exchange, as well as Compliance concerns address security considerations. The identity and trust mechanisms provide the basis. The Federated Catalogues present Self-Descriptions and provide transparency over Service Offerings.

Federation Services match the Architecture Requirements

3.3 Goals of the Gaia-X Trust Framework

Gaia-X AISBL defines a Trust Framework that manifests itself in the form of two services:

  • the Gaia-X Registry, detailed in the Operating model chapter
  • the Gaia-X Compliance service, as the service implementing the set of rules described in the upcoming Gaia-X Trust Framework document.

3.4 Gaia-X Ecosystem

The Gaia-X Ecosystem is the virtual set of Participants, Service Offerings, Resources fulfilling the requirements of the Gaia-X Trust Framework.
There is one Gaia-X Ecosystem federating independent autonomous existing and future ecosystems.

 Gaia-X planes

The three planes represent three levels of interoperability and match the planes as described in the NIST Cloud Federation Reference Architecture chapter 2.

3.4.1 The Trust plane

The Trust plane represents the global digital governance that is shared across ecosystem. The rules of this common governance are captured by the Trust Framework and operationalized by two services:

  • the Gaia-X Compliance service, described in the Gaia-X Trust Framework
  • the Gaia-X Registry service, describe in the Operational Model chapter of this document

3.4.2 The Management plane

The Management plane represents an extension of the common digital governance provided by the Federators of the relevant ecosystems.
It includes potential contract templates specific to a vertical market.
For example, a finance or a health ecosystem will have additional rules.

Specific ecosystem governance rules are out of scope for Gaia-X.

3.4.3 The Usage plane

The Usage plane is the one capturing technical interoperability, including the one between Service Offerings.