UK data centres: Microsoft follows AWS in overcoming Safe Harbour issues

Microsoft will build its first data centres in the UK to overcome data sovereignty concerns and improve latency for local customers, its CEO Satya Nadella revealed today.

The two new data centres – one in London and one elsewhere in the UK – will allow the company to offer cloud services, including Azure computing and Office 365 applications, to UK customers without any data having to leave the region.

It also means the company can bid for cloud contracts with government departments, which must keep all data in the country.

The expansion marks Azure’s 21st region, more than its public cloud rivals Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform.

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‘[It] really marks a huge milestone and a commitment on our part to make sure that we build the most hyperscale public cloud that operates around the world with more regions than anyone else,’ Nadella said at Microsoft’s Future Decoded event in London. ‘[We are] giving our customers – from startups to small businesses to public sector organisations – more choice to be able to build their applications.

‘Of course we do this so we can deliver. We can empower you as individual developers or users of services.’

The news came hot on the heels of an announcement last week that AWS will also launch a UK region by early 2017.

AWS already has data centres within the European Union (EU) – in Ireland and Germany – while Microsoft also has one in Ireland, as well as one in the Netherlands.

The decision to host public cloud services within the UK relates to two issues: latency performance and data sovereignty.

The closer cloud applications are located to their users, the quicker the service can be delivered – keeping latency low. This is particularly important in companies where tiny delays can significantly harm business, such as in financial markets.

Data sovereignty, meanwhile, continues to become a growing concern in the EU as authorities introduce stricter data protection and privacy laws.

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Since 2000, the ‘Safe Harbour Decision’ had stipulated that US companies could transfer data from Europe so long as they complied with EU requirements.

However, last month the European Court of Justice invalidated the agreement, claiming it compromises customers’ privacy rights.

The development has left companies like Microsoft and AWS, which already count a considerable number of UK customers, in an awkward legal situation – so the UK data centres are a clear push to overcome these issues.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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