December 21, 2021

Let’s Look Back on 2021, When Data Spaces Became Reality

The year 2021 will be remembered as the year in which IDS-based data spaces were implemented. What had been a theoretical concept for several years is now established as the de facto standard for business.
Lars Nagel

What happened? Simply put, we have learned that data spaces are a game changer for the data economy. Able to share data with unknown partners and data endpoints, companies can now co-create and exploit the true value of their data in a flourishing ecosystem. It’s an exciting time.

A paradigm shift in data management

When the internet was created, big companies both governed and dominated data sharing networks. Now, federated data spaces are giving everyone the same opportunity to share their data on equal terms. This evolution began years ago with the advent of blockchain technologies. Only now have the major players implemented the paradigm shift.

Those with their finger on the pulse are sensing a real chance to scale up. Now we’re seeing tech companies shifting their offerings to open, multi-cloud solutions such as Gaia-X, and other businesses also forging new paths. Many OEMs have realized that they can only survive in the market if they operate in a network. To do this, they need new rules and mechanisms that give all users equal and transparent access to data. This is where IDS comes in: The IDS Connector enables secure and trustworthy data sharing for all participants in a federated, open network.

Concrete examples for the implementation of the IDS standard are the Mobility Data Space, Catena-X, and Smart Connected Supplier Network (SCSN). This is just the beginning: promising data spaces are emerging everywhere – and we monitor their trajectories with our Data Spaces Radar. These frontrunners have spurred incredible momentum over the past year. 

De facto standardization has already taken place

One reason for the success of IDS is our coherent framework. Our connector is based on container technology and a concept that has an Identity Provider at its core, complemented by a Vocabulary Provider, App Store, and Broker. This framework has already been accepted as the de facto standard and this is the way business needs to go.

The IDS standard is not only technologically smart, we also have broad acceptance in business, research, and politics, as demonstrated by our incredible results this year. We have launched an open-source community that is continuously developing and updating the IDS standard. We have completed specifications for the Broker, for the App Store, for Identity Management, for the Communication Protocol, and for the IDS Handshake, defining specifications for the implementation of the IDS Reference Architecture Model (IDS-RAM).

We have helped shape the Design Principles for Data Spaces. This is a unique paper that describes holistically what data spaces look like and how they are run. Meanwhile, the continuously evolving IDSA Rulebook focuses on the governance of data spaces. This will become even more important next year as we harmonize with other rulebooks.

In parallel, we are scouting the market, entering into incredible liaisons, and stepping out onto the European stage. Our involvement in the Team Data Spaces, in the Data Space Business Alliance (DSBA), and in Gaia-X has led us to become an opinion leader in the field. We have supported this process through our events, such as last summer’s IDSA Summit.

Harmonization enables complex data spaces

In recent months, the term ‘Gaia-compliant IDS ecosystem’ has become established. The idea is that a data space is built on top of IDS standard and is Gaia-compliant at the same time. It’s vital that these systems interact properly. Therefore, we make sure that every IDS Connector is Gaia-compliant and that we can answer every question about how to store, recycle or catalog data.

Our common task will be to certify all relevant components and to transfer the development projects into a continuous and transparent lifecycle. To do this, we need a regular heartbeat: a process for tracking and implementing requirements. That’s why we enter liaisons, why we have the data space radar, and why we have our communities. This is where we decide which new concepts and technologies will flow into the RAM.

This is how we are laying the foundation for complex data spaces based on a federated cloud infrastructure. It is exactly where we are heading with DSBA. Together, we want to realize a framework that accommodates many different components.

What we have been building is now being brought to life and scaled. Our common task will be to certify all relevant components to build a trustworthy data space and to guarantee a continuous and transparent lifecycle for this. To do this, we need a regular heartbeat: a process for tracking and implementing requirements, a continuous release cycle for component specifications, the testing facilities to prove compliance and interoperability, and the open-source community to update and drive all this.

IDSA’s magic triangle

These 3 elements: The RAM, the certification scheme, and the open-source building blocks, comprise the Magic Triangle. The RAM is the blueprint for data spaces, providing detailed specifications of all the required roles and components. The certification scheme delivers conformity to the RAM so that partners can make informed decisions about whom they share their data with. The open-source building blocks are needed to implement the IDS standardization. They enable even non-IDSA members to participate in our project – vital if IDS is to enter commercial setups.

In sum, the Magic Triangle provides everything needed to share data in confidence. In this way, we can make IDS sustainable and resilient for the industry, allowing more and more data spaces to be created, fueling the engine of the new data economy.

Author: Lars Nagel
Lars Nagel is CEO of the International Data Spaces Association

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