Atos will bring Google to businesses, while at the same time assuring them of the sovereignty of their industrial data. In an interview with “Les Echos”, Thierry Breton, the CEO of the French IT company, presents an unprecedented global partnership with the Californian giant. In particular, Atos will now be able to offer its customers secure access to Artificial Intelligence technologies developed in Mountain View. To access cutting-edge technologies, “our customers are asking for a trusted third party,” explains Thierry Breton.

Question: You are announcing a partnership with Google, tell us more.

This agreement makes it possible to combine Atos’ expertise in secure data processing and storage with Google’s expertise in ‘Machine Learning’ technologies and public Cloud. It will enable the creation of online solutions from our clients’ servers, the servers that we privatize for them, our own servers and those that they lease from Google. Applications will range from Artificial Intelligence to the connected work environment. This is a unique global partnership between a technology and service company, like Atos, which knows how to adapt its solutions to accompany its clients’ digital transformations with a company that is the most advanced in the field of Artificial Intelligence. We share the same concern for performance and security as Google.

Question: How will your partnership with Google work?

It is really about responding to our clients’ demands: it is essential that companies are able to store and process their critical data wherever they wish. And at the same time, use all the technologies developed by a group like Google. What we propose through this global agreement is to be the trusted third party that guarantees its clients that at any time only they will have access to their information. For them it is an issue of sovereignty.

Question: What are you actually offering companies?

With this alliance, we are assuring our clients that they can use Google’s ‘Machine Learning’ algorithms while enjoying the benefits of the Cloud, either public or private, and know where their industrial data is stored. This is an absolutely crucial topic. Data has become a major issue. Our clients seek to be protected from cyber risks and are also anxious to have solutions that conform to European and international regulations; in a nutshell, to have a trusted third party.

Question: The big American technology brands install their data centers in France or in Europe to offer this reassurance. Do we really need Atos as a trusted third party?

Atos is a company under European law and guarantees that the data of its European clients located in Europe will not be governed under any other right. Also, our clients prefer to go through us when they want to using a public Cloud, for fear, in particular of the extraterritoriality of certain laws, that may for example, apply to clients of American companies. It is essential that companies are able to store and process their critical data in Europe. I have talked about this recently with the European Commissioner for Digital Society, Mariya Gabriel, who shares this point of view. For companies, their data is their history, which enables them to master their expertise. The creation of future added-value depends on if they are able to effectively manage their data.

Question: Atos is also announcing the opening of three research and development centers (R&D) in Dallas, London and Paris. What will these be used for?

These 3 new Atos centers have been created to enable our customers and our experts, as well as experts from Google, to work together to develop these solutions, in particular the algorithms that we plan to adapt according to our clients’ needs. In IT, expertise is now a matter of proximity. Soon we will open a fourth global R&D and ‘Machine Learning’ center in Germany.

Question: Google will therefore be able to penetrate a market in which it has little presence today…

This is the point of this partnership, together with the notion of a trusted third party. We will adapt Google technology to those clients who request it, on a preferential and non-exclusive basis. Culturally, this is our job. It is necessary to be close to companies, as we are, in order to be able to personalize Artificial Intelligence algorithms according to professionals’ needs. We will also deploy their public cloud offerings – Google Cloud Platform will become our default public cloud offer – and their G-suite office software.

Question: What is the value of this industrial data?

For a very long time, analyzing data helped create competitiveness gains. Today, we are dealing with this data to invent new economic models and create added value, in particular by using specific Artificial Intelligence algorithms. After a preparatory phase of automatic learning, these applications are deported, for example, to factories.

Question: You focus on industrial data. But it is personal data that is being debated today…

In terms of data and Artificial Intelligence, the real revolution that stands before us is that of the manufacturing industry. The volume of data in the world doubles every eighteen months. In 2020, there will be 40 zetabytes; that is more than there are observable stars in the known universe. Personal data is just a part of it. Our job is to store, process and protect our clients’ data in all areas of business. Europe is waking up and is trying to understand how strategic this issue is.

FLORIAN DEBES | NICOLAS BARRÉ | FABIENNE SCHMITT

Photo: ROMUALD MEIGNEUX/SIPA