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Backbone networks for pan-European cloud federation – Call for proposals (CEF-DIG-2021-CLOUD)

End users’ tight budgetary constraints, the growing awareness of cloud impact on climate change, the relatively low cloud uptake among both the public and private sectors (18%)3, and the need to enable the free flow of data across the EU are all fuelling the demand for federated cloud and edge infrastructures. Such infrastructures need to be interconnected in a highly secure, highly energy-efficient, and fully interoperable manner, respecting data protection and offering very low latency. This demand is driven by a technological shift in which cloud has become the technology underpinning the uptake of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT) and High-Performance Computing (HPC).

Yet, the market for cloud services and infrastructure is highly concentrated among a limited number of companies. While some local alternatives exist at national level, none of the pan-European providers is European-owned. Similarly, DNS4 resolution, a critical backbone function to access resources on the internet, is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few non-European operators, creating overall internet resilience weaknesses, and potentially insecure in terms of guaranteeing privacy safeguards according to EU rules and protection from local cybersecurity threats (e.g. malware and phishing in local EU languages).

This situation is especially problematic for public administrations or public and private entities entrusted with the operation of services of general interest (SGIs5) or of Services of General Economic Interest (SGEIs6) as well as critical infrastructures, who are in need for particularly robust and secure backbone networks and interconnection services such as DNS resolution. Their respective infrastructures are not properly interconnected and alternative (sub)contractors which could provide such services are either too small or not in line with their high demands in terms of data management 7.

Answering this challenge, in its Data Strategy of February 20208, the European Commission committed to invest in a High Impact Project on European data spaces, and federated cloud-to-edge infrastructures and services.

Together with the Digital Europe programme, InvestEU and the Recovery and Resilience Fund (RRF), the CEF Digital programme, and specifically this call, will be the catalyst to deploy cross-border and national cloud-to-edge infrastructure interconnections at both the physical (i.e. very high capacity networks) and functional levels (i.e. DNS resolution, management systems and software-defined infrastructures) among socio-economic drivers (SED) across the EU to the benefit of EU citizens and businesses. Within the context of this call, socio-economic drivers are public administrations or public or private entities entrusted with the operation of SGIs or of SGEIs.

The associated architectural requirements to enable security, safety, energy and resource efficiency, data protection and interoperability of those interconnections is also an inherent part of this call.


  1. Only 1 company in 4 and 1 in 5 SME are using cloud computing in the EU according to the 2019 Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI)
  2. The Domain Name System is the system allowing connecting a domain name to a resource on the internet, like a website or an application server.
  3. Commission Notice on the notion of State aid as referred to in Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, OJ C 262, 19.7.2016, p. 1–50
  4. See the Communication from the Commission on the application of the European Union State aid rules to compensation granted for the provision of services of general economic interest Official Journal C8, 11.01.2012, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX:52012XC0111(02), and the Commission Decision of 20 December on the application of Article 106(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to State aid in the form of public service compensation granted to certain undertakings entrusted with the operation of services of general economic interest Official Journal L7, 11.01.2012, p. 3-10, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=CELEX%3A32012D0021
  5. https://digital-strategy.ec.europa.eu/en/news/study-economic-detriment-smes-unfair-and-unbalanced-cloud-computing-contracts
  6. COM(2020) 66 final https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/communication-european-strategy-data-19feb2020_en.pdf

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/info/funding-tenders/opportunities/docs/2021-2027/cef/wp-call/2021/call-fiche_cef-dig-2021-cloud_en.pdf

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