Interview: How Sovereign Cloud Stack ensures data sovereignty

Manuela Urban (COO, Sovereign Cloud Stack) explains how Sovereign Cloud Stack, a federated cloud technology built with Open Source Software, promises data sovereignty and full user control.
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Manuela Urban, COO, Sovereign Cloud Stack

Dr. Manuela Urban, COO, Sovereign Cloud Stack  (Image rights: David Ausserhofer)

What exactly is the Sovereign Cloud Stack (SCS)?

SCS consists of two important concepts: A standard as well as a reference implementation.

The SCS community develops integration and validation for cutting-edge cloud technology components, consisting entirely of open source and open standards. The components are assembled into a complete cloud and container stack, but they can also be consumed as individual, fully compatible modules – whatever the cloud provider or the internal IT department needs.

The complete stack will serve as a reference infrastructure implementation for Gaia-X. As the first entirely open, integrative and comprehensive cloud technology project, SCS is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs since July 2021 and based at the German Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA).

The standards can also be fulfilled without using the reference implementation components. The precise standard definitions along with compliance tests are developed by the Sovereign Cloud Stack project. They assure that providers who adhere to them have a high level of compatibility and also a certain level of sovereignty. A certification program is underway and currently being developed.

What are the key features of SCS?

SCS is using existing and proven open source components such as OpenStack or Kubernetes and extends them where required, typically by contributing back upstream. The integration of all those components requires highly skilled engineers, and allows many variations that often add no value but lead to a fragmentation of all the offerings. Fragmentation makes it more painful for those assembling and operating the stacks. But it also makes it painful for the users who have to deal with not fully compatible infrastructure from different providers.

So, first of all, the standardisation efforts are essential to achieve interoperability and thus enable the distributed use of cloud services, that is, the federation and scalability of SCS-based services.

Secondly, SCS’s modularity gives cloud service and infrastructure providers all options to operate the infrastructure, either completely or in parts, by themselves or to use one or more service providers, according to their specific situation and needs, thus providing 100% freedom of choice.

Third, the code and the integration process and the supporting tools are all fully open source, developed in an open process. This allows an extremely high level of transparency, including the ability to influence, contribute, and even diverge.

Fourth, considerable efforts are being made to document and share operational knowledge in order to overcome the difficulties that still exist in providing and sustaining high-quality, secure and resilient cloud infrastructure. This is the concept of “open operations“.

To put it simply, SCS provides high-quality, easy-to-use, sustainable cloud technology as a federable public infrastructure asset for a free, competitive market, leveraging innovation in high-quality services, developed as open source in an open process trying to build open operational knowledge.

What goals does Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA) aim to achieve with SCS?

The OSB Alliance receives funding from the German government for the SCS project because developing a vibrant ecosystem around cloud technology can cure the market failure in the European cloud market, which is dominated by only a few hyperscalers.

Moreover, as we all know, cloud services under foreign jurisdiction carry the risk to violate European data protection law. But there is much more than that: Only open source ensures transparency and participation, and thus independence from the interests of a few.

Who can participate in and benefit from SCS?

Anyone interested in the collaborative development of open source cloud technology and open standards, sharing knowledge or contributing use cases can participate in and benefit from SCS. Anyone wanting to build and operate open source cloud/container infrastructure should really be interested in working with SCS.

In addition to free participation, there is also the possibility for companies to participate in public tenders to contribute paid work to SCS technology.

How does SCS impact data and digital sovereignty?

Data and digital sovereignty can only be secured if indispensable technology can be built and used according to self-determined rules, that is, domestic (fortunately for us this means European) legislation. By using open source, we can still benefit from the global innovation in IT, without creating dependencies that would violate the self-determinedness. SCS aims to enable individuals, organisations, businesses, and governments to build and use cloud technology that is trustworthy and aligned with their needs. SCS therefore also contributes to Gaia-X.


Dr. Manuela Urban, COO, Sovereign Cloud Stack at Open Source Business Alliance e.V., joined the Open Source Business Alliance as Co-Lead and COO of the Sovereign Cloud Stack project in May 2021. Prior to that, she was the Managing Director of one of the three large research institutes in Berlin.

She has more than 25 years of experience in leadership positions in science management, where open, global collaboration and resource sharing have long been common. Digital transformation has been a major focus of her work since long. Manuela holds a PhD in Biology and a Masters in Business Administration.


Anwesha Ray

March 24, 2022

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