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January 16, 2024
Orange announced in 2021 that it was partnering with Capgemini on the establishment of a new independent cloud platform called Bleu that will be based on Microsoft Azure.
Little more was heard about the venture until 2022, when the France-based operator said Bleu would launch the Bleu "Readiness Program" and start "engaging with customers by the end of 2022."
Cue more radio silence until, finally, it seems that the partners are now ready to turn the cloud bleu with the launch of commercial activities and a new web site under www.bleucloud.fr after receiving validation from the European Commission in 2023.
Bleu's first services, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, will not go live on the platform until at least the end of 2024, but the new venture is now engaging with select "French public and private organizations to ensure that they are ready for the migration."
The key focus is to create a French cloud service provider that satisfies what Orange previously described as "the unique needs of a specific set of organizations," including the French state, public administrations, hospitals and critical infrastructure companies.
The services that Bleu will provide should meet all the requirements necessary to receive the SecNumCloud 3.2 qualification from France's National Agency for Information Systems Security (ANSSI), as well as legal requirements needed to confirm its status as a "cloud de confiance" operator. Orange said Bleu aims to obtain the qualification in 2025.
Christel Heydemann, CEO of Orange, said the operator is aware of the specific challenges in terms of data protection and sovereignty for critical infrastructure operators and public institutions.
"We are confident that Bleu will meet these needs by providing a cloud solution based on Microsoft services while being fully compliant with the standards set by French authorities in its ‘trusted cloud' doctrine. Bleu is now fully operational and is actively working with its future customers to prepare for their migration to the platform," she said.
Although the new platform will be based on the Microsoft Azure platform, all data centers will be in France and strictly separated from Microsoft's global data center infrastructure. In addition, Bleu will be entirely operated by its own staff in France.
Gaia-X: still in play?
It was previously indicated that Bleu will also ultimately join the Gaia-X initiative, of which Orange and Capgemini are members. The cloud-computing "moonshot" project was established in 2021 with the aim of establishing common standards for storing and processing data within Europe and thereby reducing the continent's dependence on the likes of Amazon and Microsoft for their cloud needs.
However, not much has been heard from Gaia-X of late. It announced in October 2023 that Ulrich Ahle, CEO of Fiware Foundation, had been appointed CEO of the Gaia-X European Association for Data and Cloud (AISBL), replacing Francesco Bonfiglio, who had been leading the nonprofit association for almost three years.
In November, the fourth Gaia-X summit took place in Spain, where it was claimed the initiative is making progress with its mission is to establish Gaia-X as the "de facto standard by developing policies, rules, specifications, and a verification framework aligned with EU values."
More recently, Nextcloud CEO Frank Karlitschek told the Register that he doesn't have many hopes for Gaia-X. "I don't think Gaia-X has a future," he said, claiming it has been hijacked by the very US hyperscalers whose power it was hoping to address.
Read more about:Europe
Contributing Editor, Light Reading
Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.
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