I have been following this discussion in the OSB Alliance mailing lists for a few days. Now I’ve also read the article from heise about it and there’s really only one thought running around in my head: Please, what?!?
The Bundescloud is currently implemented with Nextcloud. The article contains the following statement from the ITZBund about the planned proof-of-concept with Microsoft as an extension of this stack: “This will […] [promote] digital sovereignty in the sense of real choice and reduce dependence on individual manufacturers”. Surely this sentence cannot really be meant seriously? In one of the last remaining federal open source projects, Microsoft is to be introduced as a digitally sovereign choice alternative to open source?!?
It may be digital, but it is not sovereign.
But I’ll try to put my polemic on this aside and assume that Nextcloud alone doesn’t offer everything you’d hope for from the federal cloud. This is not a fault of Nextcloud. It is simply because this, like all other open source solutions, is an expert in its field – here: Sync & Share. Any shortcomings of the solutions could be remedied by the Confederation investing in further developments, adding and integrating other provider solutions (see e.g. https://kopano.com/featured/kopano-kraph-perfectly-connected-and-digitally-sovereign/ ) with different expertise or replacing the solution with another provider. Having all three avenues available is what digital sovereignty is all about.
Adding or even basically using closed source applications in areas that require digital sovereignty cannot be a solution. This means giving up digital sovereignty, at least in some areas. In the end, it is not uncommon to find that such contracts are more a branding exercise than a solution-oriented approach to a defined challenge.
Our approach to solving such challenges
Just a few days ago, my colleague Anke and I had a conversation with a potential new partner who was looking for a digitally confident and all-encompassing stack for office communication and collaboration. We were told that they wanted everything from a single source. I made it very clear that we don’t offer that and that it doesn’t exist from the hand of a single manufacturer. We are one of the experts in the email and calendar environment. Companies like ownCloud, Nextcloud or Seafile are the experts in the sync & share area. ONLYOFFICE, Collabora or allotropia offer solutions for document collaboration. A solution provider must be found from at least these three areas. Conversely, one can then exchange the providers of one area without having to exchange the others as well. In this way, one is only dependent on a manufacturer in the area of his expertise and has alternatives.
In my opinion, there are exactly two possible models for solving such a task: Either one puts oneself in a position to manage a project with at least three different manufacturers or one hires a service provider as a fourth in the group to take over this task.
Dear ITZBund: You cannot buy vendor independence and digital sovereignty from a single vendor who, as a world market leader, offers a complete and all-encompassing stack. I believe I am not alone in my opinion that vendor independence must require the interchangeability of individual components with another vendor. Getting there is an investment. But it is a sustainable one.