AWS Unveils Sovereign Cloud Services in Europe


By: Mary Jander

Amazon Web Services (AWS) this week announced a new AWS European Sovereign Cloud, stepping further into an area that’s gaining momentum across all cloud providers.

Some context: Sovereign clouds use dedicated hardware and physical locations sealed off from other cloud customers. They are staffed by citizens of the country in which they're deployed. The goal is compliance with the strict data security laws governing personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. Examples include regulations set by U.S. Government agencies; state and local laws such as California’s Privacy Rights Act and the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); as well as certifications such as Europe’s C5 (Cloud Computing Compliance Criteria Catalogue) created by Germany’s Federal Office of Information Security (BSI).

Demand for sovereign clouds has grown as governments worldwide look to adopt cloud technology. Proponents maintain that these more strictly guarded clouds enable customers to tap into the flexibility and scalability of cloud architecture not always provided by hybrid and/or on-premises environments, while supporting the strict security offered on prem.

As of now, all of the world’s top cloud providers, including Alibaba, AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle, Salesforce, and IBM, offer government cloud options, of which sovereign clouds are a superset.

Details of the AWS Service

AWS’s new service brings dedicated cloud resources to AWS users within the EU, starting in Germany (launch date unspecified). Like other AWS services, it will operate out of a specially dedicated region containing multiple availability zones supporting redundant datacenters. But those regions and zones will be completely independent of other AWS locations, and they will be staffed by AWS employees who work in and are residents of EU member states. Support will be 24/7/365.

Customers will require a new AWS account to use AWS European Sovereign Cloud services, but the services, APIs, and tools available to them will be the same as for any other AWS implementation. Further, customers will be able to shift existing services over to the sovereign cloud. “You can start to build applications today in any of the existing regions and move them to the AWS European Sovereign Cloud when the region launches,” wrote Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, in a blog. “You can also initiate conversations with your local regulatory authorities in order to better understand any issues that are specific to your particular location.”

Other Sovereign Cloud Efforts

As noted, sovereign clouds have been gaining momentum for years, particularly in the government sector. AWS's announcement comes just weeks after Microsoft announced the Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty, which is set for general availability in December 2023.

But Azure and others have been working in this area for years. In 2021, the government of France announced plans with telco Orange and integrator Capgemini to create a dedicated state cloud based in part on Microsoft Azure. Also that year, Google Cloud announced plans with Deutsche Telekom’s T-Systems to create a sovereign cloud for German’s public sector, healthcare organizations, and enterprises with special data restrictions. Oracle also provides sovereign cloud services.

In the U.S., AWS has offered GovCloud, based on a set of regions in the Eastern and Northwestern parts of the country. Services in GovCloud are, in AWS’s words, “designed to address specific regulatory and compliance requirements of US government agencies at the federal, state, and local level, as well as contractors, educational institutions, and other U.S. customers that run sensitive workloads in the cloud.”

AWS also offers AWS Dedicated Local Zones, available to customers worldwide. In Singapore, for instance, the government has deployed this option to protect data in its Smart Nation and Digital Government Group. And AWS offers its Outposts option for customers looking to implement a managed AWS environment on premises.

AWS acknowledged that this week’s announcement builds on what it already offers: “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 localization, and more recently, digital sovereignty,” stated Max Peterson, vice president of Sovereign Cloud at AWS, in the press release.

Futuriom Take: AWS’s release of a sovereign cloud option in Europe builds on years of similar efforts by AWS and its competitors, particularly in the government sector. It demonstrates growing demand for this alternative.