Decentralized Gaia-X Federations enable freedom of choice for cloud adoption

deltaDAO Team
8 min readMay 18, 2022

Francesco Bonfiglio (CEO Gaia-X AISBL) describes Gaia-X as “the rebirth of the data economy in Europe through the creation of a secure, sovereign, transparent infrastructure based on the principles of sovereignty, freedom of circulation of data, guarantee of the supplier, as well as quality and security for the technology consumer”. Bonfiglio is convinced that “Gaia-X represents the beginning of a new movement for data ethics in Europe.”

While building towards the vision of a European data economy, Gaia-X shaped the concept of data spaces. Spaces that — just like the internet — are owned by no one. And open to everyone.

Owned by no one, open to everyone. That’s how data spaces built on Ocean Protocol are designed by default.

The Minimal Viable Gaia-X already demonstrates these features without sacrificing data sovereignty, data protection, and privacy. It creates an open, transparent, trustless, privacy-preserving, and decentralized data infrastructure. Owned by no single entity, ensuring non-discriminatory access to data spaces for everyone who adheres to the common standards and rules of the community.

Beginning with the first Gaia-X Hackathon, the Minimal Viable Gaia-X (MVG) confirmed that a decentralized data infrastructure, in line with the Gaia-X vision and the trust framework is in reach.

A federation of interoperable autonomous Gaia-X ecosystems

Think of the MVG as a fully decentralized ecosystem and a Minimal Gaia-X ecosystem, embedded into the larger Gaia-X federation of ecosystems that share the same trust framework.

A fully decentralized Minimal Gaia-X Federation, what does that mean exactly?

It means the first decentralized Minimal Gaia-X Federation is up and running, today!

Featuring a transaction layer based on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT), Federated Catalogue(s), Sovereign Data Exchange Services, a Data Exchange Logging Service, Gaia-X Portals, and an Identity & Trust layer based on Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) and Verifiable Credentials (VC). Following the Compute-to-Data paradigm, data ownership and sovereignty are technically guaranteed by design while not prohibiting traditional data sharing in any way

The solution is permissionless, meaning anyone can participate who adheres to the community standards. Data and service providers, data consumers and cloud service providers in the roles of federators, validators, identity-, portal -, compute- or storage providers.

The decentralized Minimal Gaia-X Federation is truly owned by no one and open to everyone.

How does it work? Let’s dive deeper into the architecture and system design. Our Minimal Gaia-X Federation is based on three layers (from bottom to top):

  • The transaction layer based on DLT. It features the Federated Catalogue and the Data Contract Service (DCS) based on Smart Contracts, the Data Exchange Logging Service (DELS), an immutable data audit trail, and the foundation of the Identity & Trust components.
  • The middleware layer manages communication between the components, efficient provision of (cached) data and computation via Ocean’s Compute-to-Data.
  • The application layer hosts Gaia-X Portals and tools to interact with data, identity, and trust services.

Why is Web3 technology essential to build a truly federated system?

1. Data Exchange Logging & transparency. Using DLT, all transactions are verified, stored, and audited in an ordered, transparent, and trustless way, thus enabling the Data Exchange Logging Service (DELS). Owned by no one and open to everyone.

Transparency is among the most prominent features of DLT applications. DLT has the potential to transform a “shadow economy” into a transparent data economy. Each transaction is orderly stored in a distributed public database, the ground truth. Data auditability emerges as a new basis of trust. All actions can be observed and independently verified, creating a “trustless” environment. In an evolving data economy, this will be of tremendous value for the co-creation of a democratic data economy. Participants, policymakers, and regulators can derive evidence-based decisions and, at the same time, a new dimension of micro- and macroeconomic research within the data economy becomes possible. Of course, private data spaces are possible as well if desired.

2. Fault tolerance. The transaction layer based on DLT eradicates single points of failure. DLT principles ensure fault tolerance, also regarding potential malicious actors. Even if individual pieces of the ecosystem fail or are taken over by malicious actors, the overall ecosystem can continue to operate and ensure data integrity.

3. Identity & Trust. Our MVG relies on SSI and VC. This allows users to always retain control of their identity and adds a new level of trust and security.

4. Sovereign Data Exchange. The MVG offers Data Contract Services (DCS) based on smart contracts. These allow providers and consumers to offer, negotiate and stipulate data contracts and execute data access rights in a transparent and secure manner. Owned by no one and open to everyone, verified by the federators of an ecosystem, having so single point of failure.

Compute-to-Data (CtD) allows data service providers to always stay in control of their data. CtD enables data owners to grant only compute access to their data. The data itself can remain with the data owner in a secured environment or can be processed at a trusted location the parties agreed on.

5. Federated Catalogue. The Federated Catalogue based on DLT holds Data Service Self-Descriptions in the Gaia-X test network. Ocean Protocol metadata smart contracts provide a decentralized database and “ground truth” for all data asset self-descriptions. This includes a fully operational Federated Catalogue and inter-catalogue synchronization on the application layer. Being based on DLT, the catalogue inherits all properties of the base layer, such as immutability, transparency, trustlessness, and fault tolerance, making it truly “federated”. Owned by no one and open to everyone.

6. Security & Privacy by Design. Being based on DLT, single points of failure do not exist. A decentralized system is far more resilient against attacks, malicious actors, downtimes, or other events than any centralized solution. This advantage is very inviting for use cases demanding the highest levels of security, availability, and compliance. Additionally, the distributed ledger ensures the integrity of the data audit trail by design.

Privacy is promoted as actors are only identified by their SSI and, where needed, added VCs that attest a specific level of trust or other required attributes. Users stay in control of their personal information and decide on a case-by-case basis with whom they share data and what data they want to share. Data minimization is built at the core of the solution.

Ocean’s CtD allows privacy preserving data monetization on private data.

7. Common governance (DAO) and the democratization of data
Common governance and democratization of data are core value propositions of Gaia-X. A decentralized solution significantly contributes to openness and unrestricted market access. As every participant can easily offer data services and the infrastructure becomes increasingly decentralized, economic entry barriers will be removed, and the European data economy will become more democratic, efficient, and competitive.

Smart contracts also allow collecting fees on network revenue, which can be reinvested in the infrastructure and shared among the community. Democratic voting of all participants can determine the allocation of collected fees. This represents the very core and operational model of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) and reflects European values.

8. Monetization and incentives
With Ocean Protocol, data service providers themselves can settle payments for data services on-chain, without the need for any intermediary. Data monetization becomes increasingly decentralized as every participant can conveniently offer data services. With increasing competition and lower entry barriers, the dominance of large gatekeepers is decreased, which benefits all consumers.
Royalties to all parties (portal providers, data curators, community) can be transparently embedded on the smart contract level to settle immediately after a consumption of data service.

Innovation through digital sovereignty

After we explored why Web3 technology is useful to build a federated data economy, you might ask yourself: “But what about the cloud services providers? Storage and computation are still somehow centralized. Portability and vendor lock-in remains a challenge.”

That’s how we see it: The vision of Gaia-X has a great impact on European cloud providers, who are essential to the transport, security, and access to data. There is a huge opportunity for smaller cloud providers to combine their services in a more federated way.

So far, cloud providers have been divided into two classes: The cloud hyperscalers, being able to scale workloads seamlessly across continents, and the individual local cloud providers, each with great products but limited scalability and service variety. Local cloud providers often have strong benefits when it comes to privacy and data sovereignty. But still, businesses often hesitate with smaller brands when it comes to business-critical services.

Going a step further: Decentralization on CSP-Level

Let’s bring the best of both worlds together.

During Gaia-X Hackathon #3 and as the first step towards portable decentralized Gaia-X Federations, VMware and deltaDAO jointly showcase multi-cloud deployments of Minimal Federation Services powered by Ocean Protocol.

VMware’s open-source technology stack brings a multitude of advancements to the Minimal Gaia-X Demonstrator built by deltaDAO AG:

1. Fully interoperable, reversible, & portable — The ability to migrate between public and diverse private cloud solutions seamlessly according to cloud consumption needs, with no serious risks and no hidden costs.

2. Cloud agnostic — The ability to migrate workloads from one cloud service provider to another, bring the workload back home or operate workloads on different cloud services at the same time.

3. Energy efficiency — Improvements in green technologies are key to reaching the European Commission’s target of ensuring data centers are carbon-neutral by 2030. Through workload control, automation, and cutting down on energy-intensive hardware equipment, VMware already realizes both a reduction in the CO2 footprint of data centers, but also a 60% reduction in IT costs.

If you want to read more about multi-cloud deployments and service portability of Minimal Federation Services powered by Ocean Protocol, we highly recommend our blog post on this topic:

About deltaDAO

deltaDAO AG is the first Ocean Protocol engineering, integration and consulting company by Ocean Protocol community members. Our mission is to kickstart the European Data Economy. Active in several Gaia-X working groups and initiatives, deltaDAO is a co-organizer of the Gaia-X Hackathon and responsible for the “Compute-to-Data and Distributed Ledger Technology” track. As Web 3.0 specialists and integrators, we build towards a Minimal Viable Gaia-X.

deltaDAO — data economy solutions. GDPR compliant.