Cloud computing refers to offering, using and charging for IT services in a way that is dynamically adapted to demand and supplied through a network. The breadth of the services offered in the cloud-computing context encompasses the whole spectrum of information technology – among other things, infrastructure (e.g. processing capacity, storage space), platforms and software. Thanks to the use of cloud services which are only loaded onto the customers’ end devices for further processing where necessary, the customer enjoys reduced costs for investment and for providing, operating and charging for these services. In this regard, cloud services are offered and used solely through technical interfaces and protocols.


The term data infrastructure refers to a federated technical infrastructure, consisting of components and services that make it possible to access data and to store, exchange and use it according to predefined rules.

A digital ecosystem is the network of developers, providers and users of digital products and services, combined with transparency, wide-based access and a vibrant process of interchange. Such a system thus serves as a crucial foundation for European growth, digital innovations and new business models.

In accordance with the definition of terms used by the Digital Summit’s ‘Digital Sovereignty in a Connected Economy’ focus group, we use the term digital sovereignty to refer to the ‘possibility of independent self-determination by the state and by organisations’ with regard to the ‘use and structuring of digital systems themselves, the data produced and stored in them, and the processes depicted as a result’. Our project primarily addresses the aspect of data sovereignty included in this definition of the term: i.e. ‘complete control over stored and processed data and also the independent decision on who is permitted to have access to it’.

In the context of GAIA-X, we use the term domain as a synonym for an industry/sector and to refer to users (companies, organisations, associations, research institutions, etc.) that can be assigned to a common field.

The use cases come from various domains and illustrate the need for and the added benefit of a sovereign European data infrastructure. The selected cases are examples and currently cover the domains of ‘Industry 4.0/SMEs’, ‘Healthcare’, ‘Finance’, ‘Public sector’ and ‘Smart living’. The examples are intended to highlight areas of potential for the data infrastructure, based on application patterns that may, in principle, also be relevant in other domains. The project is open to further use cases. We welcome the addition of new domains.


Edge refers to a decentralised data architecture principle. Edge computing processes data not solely in a cloud but also worldwide where it is generated, i.e. close to the production processes – also using cloud technologies. This is highly relevant for real-time applications where a few milliseconds of reaction time (latencies) are decisive, thereby making cloud processing impossible due to its time constraints. This approach guarantees a subsequent further processing in the cloud, which is expected to be possible.


The International Data Spaces Association offers a reference architecture sustained by over 100 partners. This reference architecture makes an ecosystem possible for the exchange of data, maintaining data sovereignty, and with clearly defined rights of use, and it thereby describes a component of the federated, open infrastructure which the GAIA-X project is striving to attain. The reference architecture of the International Data Spaces Association defines a technical infrastructure and a semantic body of rules for data exchange and data use in ecosystems. The technology of the IDS Connector software component either allows data linkage and data analysis between various members of an ecosystem or blocks them respectively. In this way, existing and new cloud services can be embedded in an interoperable digital economy, while data sovereignty is safeguarded.


Lock-in effects emerge between customers and providers of cloud services if the switchover to an alternative provider of solutions or services is made more difficult, or indeed impossible, by switchover costs and barriers. The barriers to a switchover can be of a functional technical nature (dependence on the specific features of certain providers); they can arise from contractual agreements (e.g. license models and penalty costs), but can also result from a high, customer-specific degree of personalisation, from familiarisation effects, or from the sheer data volume that is to be migrated.