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November 22, 2022

Snowflake and Microsoft Azure offer data sovereignty to UK users

Snowflake users on Azure will have the option to select a UK based server to offer reassurance their data is kept safely and legally.

By Matthew Gooding

Snowflake has made its data cloud products available on cloud provider Microsoft Azure’s UK-based data centres to try and cater the growing demand for data sovereignty of customers in the public and private sectors.

The companies say the partnership will help their clients comply with data legislation.

Snowflake is giving customers the option to host their tools on a UK-based Microsoft Azure server. (Photo by T. Schneider/Shutterstock)

Snowflake offers ‘data residency’ to data cloud customers on Microsoft Azure

Snowflake’s data cloud enables businesses to hold and process data in a variety of ways. The company, valued at $45bn, works with over 6,000 businesses around the world. Its systems can be deployed across the three major public cloud providers – Azure, Amazon’s AWS and Google Cloud – or on a combination of all three for companies with multi-cloud set-ups.

With the new partnership with Microsoft, Snowflake says it is “supporting local organisations with their data localisation implementations, including organisations across a wide range of industries, such as financial services and the public sector”. By selecting a data cloud located in the UK, businesses can “facilitate compliance with laws and regulations linked to handling sensitive customer data,” a company statement said. Previously, users have not had the option to select where their data was held.

“This Microsoft Azure deployment further highlights Snowflake’s commitment to helping businesses in the UK take full advantage of cloud technology while also enjoying data residency,” says Julien Alteirac, area vice president for the UK and Ireland at Snowflake. “Snowflake customers in the UK can keep their data in the country, and at the same time benefit from the flexibility of multi-cloud to drive innovation and adaptability for their organisations. This deployment is a further representation of our ongoing commitment to data innovators in the UK.”

Microsoft’s Orla McGrath added that the launch “further demonstrates our commitment to meeting our customers’ most stringent requirements, working hand in hand with our key partners”. McGrath said: “By ensuring availability of the Snowflake Data Cloud in our UK data centres, customers and partners across a wide range of industries can be better prepared to meet local data residency requirements, whilst leveraging the tools they need to accelerate their own data and AI strategies.”

The importance of data sovereignty to businesses

Organisations, particularly those in highly regulated industries, are increasingly looking to ensure their data is kept close to home. While data transfers between the UK and Europe are covered by the data adequacy agreement between the British government and the EU, the legality of transfers across the Atlantic is questionable, with data transfer agreements between the US and EU having been repeatedly struck down in the courts by campaigners fearing such transfers could harm the privacy rights of European citizens.

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Cloud providers have historically transferred data back and forth to servers in the US, but are now having to undertake to not transfer information out of Europe for fear of falling foul of the EU’s GDPR. Microsoft unveiled a data boundary for European customers last year which pledges to keep their information on servers on the continent, and the Snowflake deal is an addition to this for UK-based users.

Both the EU and the UK have new data transfer agreements with the US in their sights, which could change the picture again. An EU-US Data Privacy Framework has been agreed at political level, but has yet to be tested in court. Campaigners are dubious that it is compatible with GDPR. The UK government meanwhile said in October it hoped to agree a data adequacy deal with the US in a matter of weeks.

Read more: Microsoft cloud for sovereignty aims to woo public sector

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