GXFS kicks off community phase with first tech workshop in Berlin

Beer is best exchanged in JSON format and should only be served to credibly authorised recipients – this is not the sound of the new digital version of the Youth Protection Act, but from a practical “tasting” session with Gaia-X Federation Services (GXFS). For two days, IT experts virtually and on-site in Berlin worked on the framework for the federation services at the first GXFS Tech Workshop. Here are a few impressions from the session in Germany’s capital city.

Start of community work

Indeed, there were no actual spirits and alcoholic beverages on 15 and 16 March in Berlin. It was a fictitious scenario for the digital image of a bar, its guests and its processes. With  44 developers and software architects on site and 150 virtually, the participants tested basic building blocks for a Gaia-X-compliant dataspace. The tests were conducted during the first technical workshop organised by the German project office for the Gaia-X developer community.

The event marked the start of the community phase for the Gaia-X Federation Services, for which software tools have been available as a framework since the end of last year. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) is supporting eleven consortia for digital flagship projects with 122 million Euro until 2024. In the meantime, it’s half-time and most of the projects are getting down to the technical implementation.

GXFS modules for digital identities, self-descriptions and service catalogues in focus

Getting started with the GXFS is posing some challenges for the projects. This was the result of a study published by the German GXFS project office at the beginning of March (available in English mid-April 2023). There is a demand for technical instructions and advice on installing and setting up the GXFS framework. This was confirmed by a short survey among the participants of the workshop.

Digital identities, self-descriptions, and service catalogues are the primary topics to be addressed when creating Gaia-X federations. These criteria form the foundation for the organisation of a dataspace. This was also the focal point of the first tech workshop. The details were presented by Dr Anja Strunk, Cloud Innovation Architect at Cloud&Heat Technologies, Christoph Lange from Fraunhofer FIT, and Steffen Schulze, Senior IT Architect at T-Systems and head of the GXFS work package “Identity & Trust”.

The price of convenience

For Steffen Schulze, the questions from the workshop participants showed what a paradigm shift Gaia-X means for the cloud market and digitalisation in Europe: “It has been convenient and cost-effective for us in Europe to use the offerings of the large platform providers. Now we are beginning to realise the effort that ownership and data sovereignty entails.

We are not yet a federation, but only a project. We do not yet know who will be our federator in this project.” said one workshop participant. Andreas Weiss, Head of Digital Business Models and project manager for Gaia-X at the eco Association, believes that this learning process inevitable. “Gaia-X Federation Services cannot provide out-of-the-box dataspace software, but rather basic building blocks. Details of technology, standards and organisation have to be defined by the dataspace operators and participants within their federations. Gaia-X and GXFS provide the necessary foundation that all dataspaces and collaborative value creation processes share, so that they can later be interoperable and exchange data and services with each other.” says Weiss.

GXFS suitable framework for decentralised dataspaces

Nevertheless, the developer community considers all GXFS work packages relevant for funding projects. This is evidenced by the GXFS acceptance study from last September and confirmed by the workshop participants. “The GXFS framework provides the architecture we need: cloud native with scalable micro-services.” said a software architect during the event in Berlin. However, the questions from the IT experts present in the workshop also showed that self-managed dataspaces present unfamiliar tasks for all involved. The Gaia-X federations will have to negotiate among themselves in the future what the large cloud platforms have made binding for all their customers.

Desire for further support of the GXFS community

After two intensive workshop days in Berlin and dozens of chat threads later, the Gaia-X project developers have come much closer to their goal. “The work here on site in Berlin and also in the virtual chats was extremely concentrated and committed. We are pleased to see the great interest in the GXFS and other formats of this kind in the community.” said Emma Wehrwein, project manager for the GXFS at eco.

For the exercise federation “Drinks Inc.”, the IT experts not only found a common language in their final presentation, but also agreed on the appropriate ingredients. The feedback from the survey after the workshop was clear: Developers and software architects in the funded projects would like more support and more intensive exchange, for example through hackathons. Perhaps it was the relaxed atmosphere, or perhaps it was the case study, that led the developers to request a two-week retreat for GXFS developers.

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