Across Europe, businesses are shifting to the cloud the gain the flexibility, performance and cost efficiency benefits they need to compete in the modern digital economy. For easier access to cloud services, they’re moving away from traditional on-premises data centers, in favor of colocation facilities that provide quick and easy “on-ramps” to cloud providers.
This shift has created a delicate balancing act around cloud sovereignty and data privacy in Europe. Government agencies need to ensure cloud services are delivered in a secure, transparent manner that’s in line with local laws and customs. This gets more complicated when you consider that about 70% of the European cloud market is controlled by the big three U.S.-based hyperscalers: AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud.
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As multinational cloud providers grow larger and more consolidated, European governments may find it difficult to ensure those providers are keeping citizens’ data protected. The challenge is particularly stark in industries that take in a lot of sensitive personal information, such as healthcare and banking, as well as public sector functions like defense and transportation. In many countries, governments are responding to the shift to cloud by passing stringent data sovereignty regulations. These regulations typically require the data of European citizens to be stored exclusively in Europe.
The cloud providers have recognized the need to “play by the rules” if they want to continue doing business in Europe. Instead of treating government as a natural adversary, they’ve realized that forming an open, collaborative relationship with regulators can help deliver the best results for all involved. This has created some fundamental changes in how cloud providers deliver services in Europe, which in turn is impacting how European businesses access the cloud services they need.
Gaia-X helps define the future of sovereign data infrastructure in Europe
One example of a private-public partnership defining the future of cloud services in Europe is the Gaia-X initiative. This initiative brings together businesses, research institutions and public sector organizations to work toward the shared goal of a sovereign data space for all European companies. Gaia-X participants are applying innovative thinking to help meet two key goals: creating a digital ecosystem where data and services can be shared freely and openly among partners across Europe, and ensuring that ecosystem is secure, trusted and sovereign.
One of the main challenges with the initiative is defining exactly what it means for a cloud offering to be sovereign. This is important work, as it will set the standard for all future European cloud sovereignty efforts. To put it simply, the common European data space will be sovereign because data sovereignty is one of the key tenets of the Gaia-X standard. To meet this standard, a cloud must be deployed in Europe, and it must be operated by a European company.
Hyperscalers partner with European companies for sovereign cloud offerings
As hyperscale cloud providers look to balance the needs of their European customers with data sovereignty requirements, they are increasingly looking to partner with local companies. This allows European customers to benefit from the innovative cloud services and high performance the hyperscalers are known for; at the same time, they can move even their most sensitive data and applications to the cloud without putting sovereignty at risk.
These partnerships will typically result in a new legal entity formed under local law, with the European partner maintaining the majority share. This new company will host, control and operate cloud infrastructure in Europe, completely separate from the hyperscaler’s own cloud infrastructure. In addition, the new company will assume responsibility for things like customer service, data security, software updates and sustainability. All these tasks will be performed in Europe, in accordance with European laws.
Two multinational hyperscalers have already entered such an arrangement to offer sovereign cloud services in France. Microsoft partnered with Orange and Capgemini to form Bleu, a new company that will offer cloud services powered by Microsoft Azure for French public sector and critical infrastructure organizations. These services will be tailored specifically to meet all local data sovereignty requirements. Similarly, Google Cloud is partnering with Thales to co-develop a sovereign hyperscale cloud offering for its French customers. The new offering will meet the French “Trusted Cloud” requirements, as defined by France’s Information Systems Security Agency (ANSSI).
Equinix helps customers access the cloud services they need, where they need them
Despite the commendable progress hyperscalers have made when it comes to deploying sovereign cloud solutions for the European market, enterprise customers operating in Europe may still find it difficult to access sovereign cloud services. As a result, many companies are turning to hybrid multicloud architectures. This allows them to pair the flexibility and performance of the public cloud with colocated on-premises IT systems for any sensitive workloads that have special sovereignty and governance requirements.
Platform Equinix® is uniquely positioned to help these businesses deploy the hybrid multicloud architecture that best meets their needs. With Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers available in more than 65 metros across the world, Equinix customers can deploy infrastructure adjacent to cloud on-ramps, throughout Europe and across the world. This gives them direct, secure access to services from every major cloud provider, when and where they need it.
Equinix also has a mix of virtual and physical infrastructure offerings, including Equinix Fabric™ for software-defined interconnection and Equinix Metal™ for automated Bare Metal as a Service (BMaaS).
To learn more about the Equinix approach to secure, flexible hybrid infrastructure, and how it can fit into a sovereign cloud strategy for European businesses, read our hybrid infrastructure ebook today.