Gaia-X aims to create a federated open data infrastructure based on European values regarding data and cloud sovereignty. The mission of Gaia-X is to design and implement a data sharing architecture that consists of common standards for data sharing, best practices, tools, and governance mechanisms. It also constitutes an EU-anchored federation of cloud infrastructure and data services, to which all 27 EU member states have committed themselves1. This overall mission drives the Gaia-X Architecture.2
The Gaia-X Architecture identifies and describes the concepts of the targeted federated open data infrastructure as well as the relationships anong them. It describes how Gaia-X facilitates interconnection, interoperability and integration among all participants in the European digital economy, relative to both data and services.
This draft for the Gaia-X Architecture addresses stakeholders from industry, the public sector, science and other stakeholders. It replaces the former architecture document Gaia-X: Architecture, Release 21.03 – April 2021.3.
This document describes the top-level Gaia-X Architecture model. It focuses on conceptual modelling and key considerations of an operating model and is agnostic regarding technology and vendor. In doing so, it aims to represent the unambiguous understanding of the various Gaia-X stakeholder groups about the fundamental concepts and terms of the Gaia-X Architecture in a consistent form at a certain point in time.
It forms the foundation for further elaboration, specification, and implementation of the Gaia-X Architecture. Thus, it creates an authoritative reference for the Gaia-X Federation Services specification.
The Gaia-X Architecture Document is subject to continuous updates reflecting the evolution of business requirements (e.g., from dataspace activities in Europe), relevant changes in regulatory frameworks, and advancements in the technological state of the art.
The Gaia-X Architecture document describes the concepts required to establish the Gaia-X Data and Infrastructure Ecosystem. It integrates the Providers, Consumers, and Services essential for this interaction. These Services comprise ensuring identities, implementing trust mechanisms, and providing usage control over data exchange and Compliance – without the need for individual agreements.
The Gaia-X Architecture Document describes both the static decomposition and dynamic behaviour of the Gaia-X core concepts and Federation Services.
Details about implementing the Gaia-X Ecosystem are to be defined elsewhere (see “Architecture of Standards”).
At present, automated contracts, legal binding, monitoring, metering as well as billing mechanisms, amongst others, are not within the scope of this document.
The Gaia-X Architecture document includes a glossary which identifies and defines those terms that have a distinct meaning in Gaia-X, which may slightly deviate from everyday language, or have different meanings in other architectures or standards.
Audience and Use
The Gaia-X Architecture document is directed towards all Gaia-X interests and stakeholder groups, such as Gaia-X Association members, Hub participants, and employees of companies or individuals interested in learning about the conceptual foundation of Gaia-X.
It should be used as an entry point to get familiar with the fundamental concepts of Gaia-X and their relationship among them and as a reference for elaboration and specification of the Gaia-X Architecture.
Relation to other Gaia-X Documents
The present document is prepared by the Working Group “Architecture” within the Technical Committee, of which roles and responsibilities will be documented in the Operational Handbook. Additional Compliance-relevant information will be outlined in the documents on “Policy Rules” as well as “Architecture of Standards”. The Federation Services specification, which is also the basis for the upcoming open source implementation, adds details about the Federation Services functionalities as well as the upcoming test workbench.
Relation to other Documents
Architecture Governance and next Steps
The Gaia-X Architecture document contains contributions from various Gaia-X Working Groups. It is the linking pin to the associated artefacts, providing the top-level conceptual model definitions that are the basis for further specification and implementation. Changes (Request for Change or Errors) are managed in the Architecture Decision Record (ADR) process documented in a collaboration tool4.
The architecture is used to address the following requirements:
Interoperability of data and services: The ability of several systems or services to exchange information and to use the exchanged information in mutually beneficial ways.
Portability of data and services: Data is described in a standardized protocol that enables transfer and processing to increase its usefulness as a strategic resource. Services can be migrated without significant changes and adaptations and have a similar quality of service (QoS) as well as the same Compliance level.
Sovereignty over data: Participants can retain absolute control and transparency over what happens to their data. This document follows the EU’s data protection provisions and emphasizes a general ‘compliance-by-design’ and ‘continuous-auditability’ approach.
Security and trust: Gaia-X puts security technology at its core to protect every Participant and system of the Gaia-X Ecosystem (security-by-design). An Identity management system with mutual authentication, selective disclosure, and revocation of trust is needed to foster a secure digital Ecosystem without building upon the authority of a single corporation or government.
This architecture describes the technical means to achieve that, while being agnostic to technology and vendors.
Architecture Design Principles
The following design principles5 underlie the architecture:
Name - Statement - Rationale - Implications
Federation: Federated systems describe autonomous entities, tied together by a specified set of standards, frameworks, and legal rules. The principle balances the need for a minimal set of requirements to enable interoperability and information sharing between and among the different entities while giving them maximum autonomy. The principle defines the orchestrating role of Gaia-X governance elements and implies interoperability within and across Gaia-X Ecosystems.
Decentralization: Decentralization describes how lower-level entities operate locally without centralized control in a self-organized manner. (The federation principle enables this self-organization by providing capabilities for connectivity within a network of autonomously acting Gaia-X Participants.) The principle of decentralization implies individual responsibility for contributions and no control over the components, which fosters scalability.
Openness: The open architecture makes adding, updating, and changing of components easy and allows insights into all parts of the architecture without any proprietary claims. In this way, Gaia-X is open to future innovation and standards and aware of evolving technologies. The documentation and specifications of Gaia-X architectures and technologies are openly available and provide transparency as technology choices will be made to encourage the distribution of collaboratively created artifacts under OSD6 compliant open source licenses7.
European Commission. (2020). Towards a next generation cloud for Europe. https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/news/towards-next-generation-cloud-europe ↩
Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. (2019). Project Gaia-X: A Federated Data Infrastructure as the Cradle of a Vibrant European Ecosystem. https://www.bmwi.de/Redaktion/EN/Publikationen/Digitale-Welt/project-Gaia-X.htm ↩
Gaia-X European Assocation for Data and Cloud AISBL. Architecture Decision Record (ADR) Process: GitLab Wiki. https://gitlab.com/Gaia-X/Gaia-X-technical-committee/Gaia-X-core-document-technical-concept-architecture/-/wikis/home ↩
TOGAF 9.2. Components of Architecture Principles. https://pubs.opengroup.org/architecture/togaf9-doc/arch/chap20.html#:~:text=Architecture%20Principles%20define%20the%20underlying,for%20making%20future%20IT%20decisions. ↩
Open Source Initiative. The Open Source Definition (Annotated). https://opensource.org/osd-annotated ↩
Open Source Initiative. Licenses & Standards. https://opensource.org/licenses ↩