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Amazon and Microsoft unveil UK cloud strategies

Neil Merrett Published 10 November 2015

GDS praises pledge to establish data centres within the UK; leading cloud providers' announcements come just one month after EU 'Safe Harbour' ruling


Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have announced separate plans to provide commercial cloud services from UK-based data centres from next year in a move welcomed by the Government Digital Service (GDS).

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today confirmed that its Microsoft Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online services would all be delivered from a new data centre region in the UK from later next year as part of a wider data centre expansion across Europe.

Whitehall Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Liam Maxwell said the company's decision to offer cloud services from the UK for the first time was good news for the government considering the amounts of data it holds that needs to be kept onshore.

"Not only will this mean a significant investment in the UK economy, but it also means more healthy competition and innovation in the UK data centre market," he said in a statement.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) chief digital and information officer Mike Stone also welcomed Microsoft's plans as a development that would support the department's technology information aims.

"At the MOD, we have a clear mission to deliver the modern, open and flexible IT resources required to ensure our forces have information capabilities tailored to their mission, location and role, accessible through a cost-effective and adaptable infrastructure," he added.

According to the company, the UK data residency strategy will allow for information to be replicated for backup and recovery in the country, as well as reducing network distance.

Microsoft's announcement follows the release last week of a blog post by Amazon vice president Werner Vogels that said AWS would be establishing a UK region to deliver cloud services by the end of 2016.

The region - the company's third within the EU - is seen as providing strong data sovereignty to UK users working within government, universities and the private sector.

"We are committed to meeting our customers' increasing needs for capacity and for powerful AWS services that eliminate the heavy lifting of the underlying IT infrastructure -- allowing them to focus more of their precious resources on their core business," he said.

"Leading UK organisations were among the early adopters of the cloud when we first started AWS back in 2006 and we continue to help them drive increased agility, lower IT costs, and easily scale globally."

Both announcements come as the UK government continues to review the potential technology implications for the public and private sectors from last month's European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that invalidated the 'Safe Harbour' data agreement.

According to the court ruling, a previous European Commission decision agreed 15 years ago that declared the US is able to provide adequate levels of protection for personal data transferred via Safe Harbour should not reduce or overrule the powers of national data protection watchdogs.

On the basis that Safe Harbour "denies supervisory authorities their powers where a person calls into question whether the decision is compatible with the protection of the privacy", the court invalidated the agreement - raising questions over the potential impact on authority data protection.

Both Microsoft and AWS did not mention the Safe Harbour ruling in their respective UK cloud announcements this month.

However, shortly after the ECJ decision last month, both companies said that customers would continue to transfer data to the US as a result of additional safeguards that had been improved around their operations.

Related articles:

Whitehall 'safe harbour' data sharing review underway

Cabinet Office disappointed with EU Safe Harbour ruling

AWS backs new procurement vehicles for UK cloud evolution

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