Trying my hardest to avoid making flippant comments referencing Fawlty Tower’s “don’t mention the war” sketch, I’ll try and stick to the facts of this story.
It seems the German federal government is none too keen to see data situated with cloud providers outside of the country. That should come as no surprise from the country that is arguably the most privacy-focused in the European Union, a Union itself which is far more focused on privacy than, for example, the US. So to up the ante on its “keeping it here” focus, the Germans, by way of the Federal Information Technology Center (ITZBund), are building their own, open source, self-hosted cloud in Germany.
ITZBund is the organization tasked with taking care of IT services for the entire federal government and this initiative, for a file synchronization and collaboration offering, leads on from a pilot that they have already been running since October 2016. That pinot had some 5,000 users and would seem to have gone well enough to gain the whole-of-Government gig. Running the pilot, and chosen to fulfill the full contract is (drum roll, please) Nextcloud. And here things get a bit complex.
Who is Nextcloud?
A quick intro to Nextcloud. And hang on for the ride here. Frank Karlitschek, a KDE software developer, announced the development of ownCloud in January 2010, in order to provide a free software replacement to proprietary storage service providers. The company was founded in 2011 and forked the code away from KDE to GitHub. For its part, OwnCloud Inc. was a company founded by Markus Rex, Holger Dyroff and Karlitschek, that attracted funding from investors, including an injection of US6.3 million 2014.
However, Karlitschek forked ownCloud in April 2016 and created Nextcloud, which continues to be actively developed by Karlitschek and other members of the original ownCloud team.
Within a few hours of that announcement, ownCloud Inc. shut down and accused Karlitchek of poaching developers. ownCloud GMBH, however, a German operation, secured new funding and took over the business of ownCloud Inc. Confused? Good, you should be!
The important thing to know is that Nextcloud is a suite of free and open source offerings that allow individuals and organizations to create a “Dropbox-like” paradigm but on their own private infrastructure.
So, back to the German thing
This is interesting on a number of different levels:
- No public cloud allowed. ITZBund was worried about using a public cloud, even one with a German presence, and has instead decided upon a private, on-premises cloud
- Open source – instead of using a proprietary software offering, ITZBund have gone with an open source solution and, further to that, one that is provided by (or supported by) a European entity
- The GDPR issues – The new offering (Bundescloud) is GDPR complaint from the outset, hardly surprising given that GDPR comes into effect in May, as does DSVGO, Germany’s own implementation of GDPR
- The Facebook thing – yeah, now is not a good time for US vendors to be trying to offer a product that has a connection to sensitive data – the optics, as they say, are not good
A nice win for Nextcloud, and an interesting case study given the enveloping storm around data and privacy.