Securing, managing, accessing and delivering data at scale is becoming increasingly complex as various jurisdictions worldwide establish their own regulations to govern how companies access and use data, its ownership and where it gets stored. These regulations also make it possible for governments to mandate how their citizens’ data is processed and stored by foreign entities.
Building a cloud sovereignty strategy is one mechanism that helps companies manage the risks associated with storing data in multiple countries. It’s becoming increasingly important as organizations and governments strive to limit their exposure and retain control over critical data assets as geopolitical tensions rise, data privacy laws evolve and global hyperscalers continue to dominate the landscape.
A recent Capgemini report showed that 69% of organizations are concerned about exposure to extraterritorial laws in cloud environments. There are questions about how cloud sovereignty fits into an organization’s overall cloud strategy and the best approach for applying it worldwide.
In this blog, I’ll discuss how to solve some of these challenges by evolving your cloud strategy to a hybrid multicloud model for data storage flexibility and low-latency delivery of data to workloads running in cloud environments.
Why you need a cloud sovereignty strategy
Cloud sovereignty as a concept recognizes that a country or region can regulate and oversee data storage, processing and use within its borders and as it affects its citizens. Businesses build cloud sovereignty into their cloud computing strategies to help them comply with regulations in different jurisdictions while retaining complete control, ownership and security of their data.
Cloud sovereignty is as important to governments as it is to organizations and will likely continue to play an increasingly pronounced role within regulatory frameworks that address cloud computing environments. Governments around the world are focused on introducing privacy and data processing-related initiatives in their countries that highlight the need for careful handling of citizens’ data. The European Commission (EC) has been leading the way by launching initiatives that allow the region, organizations and individuals more control, choice and autonomy over their data, systems and applications in the cloud.
Organizations are developing cloud sovereignty strategies with a strong focus on data localization, to host, use, store or process cloud data in a preferred location or jurisdiction such as their home country, region or territory. With data localization, the business controls, manages and owns the data, ensures data transparency and sets controls for who can access the data, from where and for what purpose.
Emerging AI/ML use cases are starting to catch the attention of government entities. Regions like the EU are beginning to regulate what data businesses use for training AI and where that data can live. How will you store that data and use it for training? This situation will come up more and more often as this very fast-moving market matures, which creates further urgency to get started establishing your cloud sovereignty strategy today.
As the use of cloud sovereignty becomes more prevalent, businesses need to stay ahead of the curve–from tracking emerging trends, to factoring elements of sovereignty into cloud strategies. Beyond data localization, organizations also expect cloud sovereignty to build trust, foster collaboration and accelerate the move to data-sharing ecosystems with access to commonly architected data hubs.
Taking a proactive approach to incorporating cloud sovereignty into a hybrid multicloud architecture can help businesses build a competitive advantage in the digital economy. Further, businesses consider hybrid multicloud the preferred way to access cloud services.
Cloud sovereignty introduces challenges
When companies launch their cloud sovereignty strategies, they face particular challenges. Cloud services provide different tiers of data control. As you progress from Infrastructure as a Service to Platform as a Service to Software as a Service, the visibility and observability you have over your data will decrease. Observability and direct physical control decline incrementally, and the compliance burden and data risks shift as you adopt various workloads. For example, the SaaS provider may tell you the region where your data is located, but not the specific data center.
More than ever, companies require rigorous security and transparency from cloud, IT and technology providers. They want to understand where their data is stored to ensure maximum control and observability while managing the risks of regulatory compliance and material outsourcing—when disruption of a vendor’s operations will significantly impact its customers.
It’s important to balance the control of where you store your data with being able to observe and confirm the data is where it should be. Yet there are risks associated with maintaining that balance, such as the level of difficulty with doing so and whether it’s the most cost-efficient approach. Maximum control and observability occur when companies have their own infrastructure in a data center; you know what equipment it’s running on and the address of the building that it lives in. However, you also give up the convenience of deploying in a cloud provider. There is no easy answer.
Consider a vendor-neutral platform
Platform Equinix® provides worldwide access to cloud providers with on-ramps in our 250 Equinix IBX® data centers spread across 70+ global metros, making it simple for customers to deliver data stored on the platform to the workloads they are running in various clouds. This approach allows businesses to retain control and observability of their data while ensuring compliance with data privacy laws and regulations of the country where they store the data.
Equinix customers have discovered that adopting a hybrid multicloud strategy helps remove some of the risks associated with implementing a cloud sovereignty strategy. They choose which clouds to run their workloads on and store their data on-premises or in Equinix IBX colocation data centers. Customers use Equinix Metal®, our automated Bare Metal as a Service solution, to virtually deploy physical servers on demand for storage capacity close to end users and data sources.
Storing your data in Equinix IBX colocation data centers in-country makes it possible to meet evolving regulatory data storage and usage requirements while retaining data control, maintaining observability and managing risks. Our partners, such as Dell and HPE GreenLake, deliver Storage as a Service in our colocation data centers, enabling maximum control and observability; customers know precisely which disks contain the data they need and the rack where they’re stored.
To learn more about how customers are using digital infrastructure to manage their data storage requirements for cloud sovereignty, read our Leaders Guide to Digital Infrastructure.
 The journey to cloud sovereignty – Assessing cloud potential to drive transformation and build trust, Capgemini Research Institute, July 2022.