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Interview with Alex Wallner, CEO of plusserver

Topics: Data sovereignty, hybrid clouds and the interplay of open source & commercial
Alexander Wallner

How do you view the topic of data sovereignty after so many years in IT? Hasn’t the ship already sailed?

Not at all! Instead, I have the impression that the topic is just gaining strong momentum with the debate surrounding Gaia-X and the question of how to deal with the Cloud Act. Sure, we’ve been talking about data and its value for companies and new business models for years. But when it comes to the actual topic, i.e. how companies should deal with their data, there is still some homework to be done. A data strategy defines where one can find which data. This includes an in-depth consideration of whom we grant access, how we do so and to what extent. With the topic of data sovereignty, aspects such as secure data storage and the need for DSGVO-compliance, cloud environments are coming into focus – and that is well and good. Because unlike a few years ago, today there are answers and solutions from Germany that guarantee that the data stays here and sensitive data is protected.

Hybrid clouds – is this actually already a reality?

We are increasingly seeing the use of hybrid clouds among our customers, partly for the reasons mentioned above. Among other reasons, the hybrid cloud approach is a “suitable” option for many companies to prepare their infrastructure for the cloud. In Germany in particular, I hardly see any “cloud-born” companies, but rather traditional companies that have grown over many years with a corresponding legacy. You can’t change everything from one day to the next, not to mention that there are simply applications that are important for the operations of these companies, which cannot be transferred into the cloud easily.

At the same time, I firmly believe that hybrid clouds are only an intermediate step. The multi-cloud will prevail in the medium and long term, with a combination of hyperscaler services and local cloud offerings.

How can this be achieved in medium-sized businesses or public institutions? Most of the time, IT is understaffed and doesn’t have enough budget. More clouds also mean more effort! Doesn’t it?

I’m afraid I have to disagree with the idea that more cloud also generates more effort as a general rule. After all, the operation of on-premises infrastructures and local solutions are also associated with personnel costs as well as maintenance work and regular monitoring. In discussions with medium-sized companies and public institutions, we increasingly see the desire to reduce this effort. The cloud is the tool to do so! Perhaps this becomes clearest when you consider what happens when your infrastructure has to scale up: All it takes is a few clicks, and a new environment is available in the cloud. With local on-premises solutions, additional hardware has to be ordered, delivered and installed. That takes a lot of time and effort, and very few companies have that. The rapid scalability and flexibility of the cloud are the main arguments that make medium-sized companies rethink their IT landscapes.

Of course, the situation is somewhat different in a hybrid cloud or a multi-cloud scenario, when companies or public institutions want to use and combine services from several clouds. In such cases, not only expertise in dealing with individual cloud solutions is required, but also a well-thought-out cloud strategy is needed. This is where we come in: plusserver supports companies as a competent partner and always acts in an advice-oriented, personal and straightforward way. With more than 20 years of experience in the server and cloud business, our own enterprise data center capacities in Germany and partner certifications with hyperscalers, we are the optimal partner for companies pursuing a multi-cloud strategy. We ensure smooth functionality of the infrastructure so that our customers can focus on the realization of future-proof and cost-efficient digital applications.

How do you view the open source world in the context of data sovereignty & co? Why is Plusserver involved here?

I think open source makes a considerable contribution to data sovereignty. For two reasons: Firstly, because the open source approach reduces dependencies and vendor lock-ins and enables self-determined handling of data. Secondly, the open-source’s demand for transparency and a peer review through an active community helps us grasp challenges – such as security vulnerabilities. For example, we don’t have to blindly trust that one of the market-dominating providers will fix a bug or close a security gap (let alone communicate it transparently). We can check for ourselves and solve the problem together.

plusserver has been involved in the open source world for a long time – even if we have not advertised it widely so far. We successfully use a variety of open source components in our pluscloud open, and at the same time, made an effort to give something back to the community. This is one of the reasons why we are so passionately involved in the development of the Sovereign Cloud Stack (SCS) – a possible substructure of Gaia-X that is completely open source-based.

We recently made our cooperation official and are now working on joint offerings for our customers. What are you focusing on in particular and which topics will be addressed first?

I see it as my duty to educate (potential) customers. One might think that the dangers in terms of data protection are so eminent that they have reached even the last corners. But unfortunately, that is still not the case. Many authorities find it difficult to make the switch and have reservations about open source solutions – often out of unawareness. At the same time, we frequently see inhibitions to take the first step and initiate change. We need to better explain how we can help public institutions and what is needed now to secure themselves while freeing themselves from dependencies. Our partnership with ownCloud thereby is an important signal for Digital Sovereignty and Data Sovereignty to the market.

Alexander Wallner, CEO plusserver:

As CEO of the Plusserver Group I am passionate about the Digital Transformation and the Cloud Journey of our customers. The only constant is that digital transformation needs a data-centric approach.


February 28, 2022

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