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October 25, 2023

AWS launches European Sovereign Cloud

Amazon's public cloud platform says the new service will help its EU customers avoid compliance headaches.

By Matthew Gooding

AWS is launching a new sovereign cloud platform for Europe. Amazon’s public cloud platform says the move is designed to help organisations in the public sector and highly regulated industries ensure that data stored in the cloud remains compliant with data residency requirements under regulations such as GDPR.

AWS is launching a European Sovereign Cloud. (Photo by gguy/Shutterstock)

The AWS European Sovereign Cloud will be physically and logically separate from existing AWS regions, with the same security, availability and performance, AWS said. It will launch its first region in Germany, and be available to all AWS customers in Europe.

Data sovereignty has become a big issue for European countries in recent years, with the legality of data transfers between the continent and the US, where AWS and the other major cloud providers are based, being in doubt. Microsoft Azure, AWS’s biggest rival in the public cloud market, has already launched a sovereign cloud product for Europe.

How AWS European Sovereign Cloud will work

AWS European Sovereign Cloud will allow customers to keep all metadata they create, such as the roles, permissions, resource labels, and configurations they use to run AWS in the EU, and will feature its own billing and usage metering systems. It will be controlled and run solely by AWS staff who are EU residents located on the continent.

Max Peterson, vice-president of Sovereign Cloud at AWS, said: “The AWS European Sovereign Cloud reinforces our commitment to offering AWS customers the most advanced set of sovereignty controls, privacy safeguards, and security features available in the cloud.

“For more than a decade, we’ve worked with governments and regulatory bodies across Europe to understand and meet evolving needs in cybersecurity, data privacy and localisation, and more recently, digital sovereignty. With this new offering, customers and Partners across Europe will have more choice to achieve the operational independence they require, without compromising on the broadest and deepest cloud services that millions of customers already know and use today.”

AWS says organisations that need even more control over where their data resides will also be able to access its AWS Outposts and Dedicated Located Zones services, which enable hybrid cloud set-ups encompassing services run on virtual machines and on-premise or edge infrastructure.

It has not revealed when the European Sovereign Cloud will launch, but Tech Monitor understands UK users will be able to take advantage of the service, despite being outside the EU.

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The rise of sovereign cloud provisions

AWS’s new offering has been endorsed by a wide range of partners including European governments and businesses across a variety of sectors.

The European Sovereign Cloud will “give businesses and public sector organizations more choice in meeting digital sovereignty requirements,” said Dr Markus Richter, the German government CIO. “Cloud services are essential for the digitization of the public administration, [and] with the ‘German Administration Cloud Strategy’ and the ‘EVB-IT Cloud’ contract standard, the foundations for cloud use in the public administration have been established.

“I am very pleased to work together with AWS to practically and collaboratively implement sovereignty in line with our cloud strategy.”

European governments, and businesses in highly regulated industries such as financial services, have been demanding that cloud providers offer data residency on the continent because storing information about EU citizens elsewhere may not be compliant with GDPR.

Problems have arisen surrounding data transfer agreements between the EU and the US because US law allows government agencies to requisition data from tech companies on security grounds, something which is not compatible with GDPR. Previous transatlantic data-sharing arrangements have been struck down in the courts after being challenged by privacy campaigners, and though a new pact, the EU-US Data Privacy Framework, was reached earlier this year, it has yet to be tested legally.

AWS is late to the party when it comes to sovereign cloud, with Microsoft Azure having already launched a similar service, Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty, last year.

Read more: Snowflake and Microsoft offer data sovereignty for UK users

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