Fast open infrastructures
ICT, Strategy & Policy

Innovations & developments in European cloud infrastructure

When it comes to storing data and using processing power in the cloud, companies in Europe mainly rely on major providers such as Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Moreover, the bulk of Western data are stored in the US. To boost Europe’s strategic autonomy, a future-proof digital infrastructure needs to be built in the EU that also makes room for smaller cloud service providers. TNO is working with parties in the Netherlands and beyond on new technologies that will enable cloud providers to deliver services to a larger, open cloud market.

Cloud federation IPCEI-CIS

The European Commission has stressed the importance of creating its own cloud service ecosystem, so much so that €1.2 billion is being invested through Member States in a special Important Project of Common European Interest – Cloud Infrastructure and Services (IPCEI-CIS). Another €1.4 billion in private investment is expected to follow.

TNO is providing its knowledge and expertise as part of two related projects.

  • ECOFED: European Cloud services in an Open FEDerated ecosystem
  • MISD: Modular Integrated Sustainable Datacenter

Cloud providers bundling capacity in the ECOFED project

The ECOFED project – short for European Cloud services in an Open FEDerated ecosystem – is about creating interoperable technologies that allow cloud providers to offer their capacities in a large market, where customers have the freedom to switch between or combine cloud services.

Companies using a hyperscaler in the US often have trouble switching to another provider. A market study carried out by parties including the Netherlands Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) found there was the problem of vendor lock-in: switching to another provider often involves high costs and technical barriers.

Instead, the European infrastructure envisaged would be an open ecosystem where all parties can exchange cloud services between themselves, promoting competition and innovation. The interplay of technology, new EU legislation, and a level playing field could revolutionise the cloud ecosystem.

Strengthening Europe’s position in cloud services

TNO, along with a number of companies and organisations, took the initiative several years ago to strengthen its European position in cloud services to form the Dutch Cloud Infrastructure Coalition (CiC).

TNO is also active within Gaia-X, a European initiative working towards an open, interoperable, transparent, and secure cloud ecosystem. This federation brings together cloud providers and allows them all to better compete against tech giants. The technological task they face is akin to creating a virtual layer over the providers that allows them to source capacity from a peer company.

Freedom of choice for users

With a cloud federation, a relatively small player can offer its services to companies or organisations that need additional storage or processing power temporarily – promoting innovation in Europe. For cloud service users, this means more freedom of choice.

Collaborating to build the new cloud infrastructure can be compared to how mobile networks work together, with iPhones and Android devices communicating seamlessly through whichever provider you subscribe to. Over the coming years, TNO will collaborate with Info Support,, BIT, and AMS-IX under the ECOFED banner to develop technologies and build test set-ups that will combine cloud services between different European countries.

MISD: Making the cloud infrastructure more sustainable

In the second IPCEI-CIS project, Modular Integrated Sustainable Datacenter project (MISD), TNO is working with partners to make the cloud infrastructure more sustainable. The goal is an ambitious one: to reduce CO2 emissions from data centres by more than 50%.

In a field lab, the parties involved will develop a decentralised network of data centres to foster innovation in energy consumption, cooling, and cyber security. TNO is investigating in particular how distributed and federated data centres can reduce their impact on the climate and also play their part in matching green energy supply to demand within power grids.

TNO is working side by side in the MISD consortium with Asperitas, BetterBe, Deerns Netherlands, Eurofiber, Stichting Nationale Beheersorganisatie Internet Providers (NBIP), and the University of Twente.

If you want to find out more about how your organisation can take part, please don’t hesitate to contact TNO.

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