AWS announces ‘sovereign cloud’ to support data residency in Europe

Amazon is joining the list of Big Tech companies to introduce a dedicated independent cloud for Europe, with news that it’s working on the “AWS European Sovereign Cloud” for governments and highly regulated industries across Europe.

AWS’s cloud rival Google partnered with Deutsche Telekom’s IT services and consulting subsidiary T-Systems more than two years ago to offer a sovereign cloud for German organizations, while Microsoft launched its “cloud for sovereignty” last year. And Oracle followed suit earlier this year.

While Amazon has always targeted European organizations with the promise of localized data storage and controls, it had previously distanced itself from the whole “sovereign cloud” concept. Amazon chief security officer (CSO) Stephen Schmidt called the sovereign cloud “a marketing term more than anything else,” but last November AWS unveiled its “digital sovereignty pledge,” going some way toward enshrining its data control commitments into stone.

Now, AWS is going the whole nine yards with more concrete commitments.

Data harnessing

At the crux of the matter is a growing array of regulations — particularly in Europe — that stipulate how people and companies’ data should be handled. Though even without specific regulation, companies in many industries — such as healthcare and banking — have been slower to go all-in on the cloud due to concerns about how their data might be harnessed by the tech giants. 

And so the AWS European Sovereign Cloud is pitched as an “independent cloud for Europe,” one that offers public sector and highly regulated industries greater data residency controls. In short, this will allow current and prospective customers to keep all their metadata within the confines of the EU, with AWS employees outside the EU unable to exert any operational control over the AWS European Sovereign Cloud. It will also sport its own billing and usage metering system.

In its announcement, Amazon said that the AWS European Sovereign Cloud will be “physically and logically separate” from other AWS Regions, and it will kick off initially with a dedicated region in Germany that will be available to all its European customers. The company confirmed to TechCrunch that this won’t be limited to the EU specifically, and organizations across the European continent (including the U.K.) will be able to access it.

While it was inevitable that Amazon would eventually launch a sovereign cloud, especially given its dominant market share and its main cloud rivals parading their own sovereign smarts, it’s likely that many organizations will still be keen to keep their data in-house on their own infrastructure, or at the very least adopt a hybrid approach. This is why AWS already offers tools that bring the power of the cloud to companies’ own data centers, such as with AWS Outposts, which serves as a private cloud hardware stack that is physically installed on-premises.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway elsewhere to bring a more native flavor of cloud to European markets — a Swedish startup called Evroc emerged from stealth this year with €13 million in funding to develop hyperscale data centers in Europe.

With regards to today’s news, AWS wouldn’t confirm when its sovereign cloud might be launching — so this could be months or years away still, it’s impossible to say.