The European Commission has approved the first Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI) for cloud and edge computing technologies.
The Next Generation Cloud Infrastructure and Services (IPCEI CIS) has been planned by seven Member States: France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Spain, with 19 companies such as Siemens and supercomputing company Atos in 19 projects.
The Member States will provide up to €1.2bn in public funding, which is expected to unlock additional €1.4 billion in private investments.
The aim of the IPCEI CIS is to develop the first interoperable and openly accessible European data processing ecosystem in a multi-provider cloud to edge continuum with open source software. It will develop data processing capabilities and software and data sharing tools that enable federated, energy-efficient and trustworthy cloud and edge distributed data processing technologies and related services.
The participating companies will develop open-source software that will allow for real-time and low-latency (i.e., a few milliseconds) services by distributed computing resources close to the user, thereby reducing the need to transmit large volumes of data to centralised cloud servers. The individual projects cover the entire cloud edge continuum, from the basic software layer to sector-specific applications.
The research, development and first industrial deployment phases will run between 2023 and 2031, with the first result, an open-source reference infrastructure – may be expected around the end of 2027.
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The IPCEI is a key part of developing sovereign data infrastructure in Europe, which started with the Gaia-X project.
The open source aspect is also important, as the participants will be expected to grant permissive, non-restrictive open-source software licenses to any interested party beyond their usual open-source software practices and business models, and provide access to interested parties to at least 20% of the capacity of the edge nodes and laboratories employed in their projects.
“The development and use of common software building blocks will ensure interoperability and ensure that data centres at the network edge are open to a multitude of compatible service providers. In this way, data can be processed adequately and sustainably close to the user, in complete security,” said Didier Reynders, the temporary commissioner for competition, on the IPCEI.
“By enabling the software to be tested and validated using industry-specific use cases as a first industrial deployment, the IPCEI will help demonstrate that a multi-vendor cloud-to-edge continuum can work across the practice.”
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“This innovative project will offer a new range of possibilities to European players in the digital sector, essential to Europe’s dual green and digital transition. Only a joint European project of this scale can help move European industry forward where coordinated innovations are needed,” he said.
The Commission has previously approved two IPCEIs in three areas: microelectronics, batteries and hydrogen. They include 255 projects from 179 companies, for a total aid amount of €26.7bn, unlocking more than €50bn in private investment.
The first workstream in the Cloud IPCEI covers the “Cloud Edge Continuum Infrastructure” to develop software, such as interfaces, that ensures that existing infrastructure can be ready.
The second workstream “Cloud Edge Capabilities” will develop a common reference architecture which will provide the essential software layer, which will enable the interconnection of different providers in a cloud to edge continuum.
The third workstream “Advanced Smart Data Processing Tools and Services” will develop a set of advanced cloud and edge services, which will be horizontally applicable to all users and sectors and will be deployed seamlessly across provider networks.
For example, a project will create generative AI models on text and multimedia content in languages other than English providing also a platform with AI models to ease the development of Artificial Intelligence applications.
The fourth workstream “Advanced Applications” will put together all elements developed in the previous workstreams to demonstrate the successful application of the cloud edge continuum capabilities in selected sector-specific cases, such as in the energy, health, and maritime sectors.
“To give you an example: the German company SAP aims at developing an open reference architecture for a secure and sustainable cloud edge infrastructure that includes intelligent optimization methods for data transparency and security. This reference infrastructure will be the basis for future software development and a prerequisite for a pan-European cloud edge infrastructure. This project is expected to deliver its first results around the end of 2027,” said Reynders.
The Commission is actively cooperating with Member States on three other upcoming IPCEIs in hydrogen and health.