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Amazon launches European ‘sovereign’ cloud as EU data debate rages

The Amazon Web Services (AWS) logo, a subsidiary of Amazon that provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals, companies, and governments, displayed during the Mobile World Congress 2023 on March 2, 2023, in Barcelona, Spain.

Joan Cros | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Amazon on Wednesday said it will launch an independent cloud for Europe aimed at companies in highly-regulated industries and the public sector.

Amazon Web Services European Sovereign Cloud will be located within Europe and will be separate to the U.S. technology giant’s other cloud operations.

Customers of the new system will be able to keep certain data in the European Union and only EU-resident AWS employees who are located in the 27-nation bloc will have control of the operations and support for the sovereign cloud.

“Customers will have the control and assurance that AWS will not access or use customer data for any purpose without their agreement, as well as access to the strongest sovereignty controls among leading cloud providers,” Amazon said in a statement.

The launch of the new cloud system underscores the need for businesses to meet Europe’s strict data privacy rules as well as the region’s push for so-called “digital sovereignty,” the idea the EU should be in control of its own data and technology.

The idea of digital sovereignty, while not well-defined, broadly relates to a bid by the EU to boost European-developed critical technology and have strict rules over the storage and transfer of data.

As government agencies and critical businesses increasingly move their operations to public cloud operators, like Amazon or Microsoft, there is growing concern in the EU that data is being stored on the servers of non-European firms. Some cloud features may require data to be transferred to and from the EU. And there is a growing worry among businesses and lawmakers that this data could be accessed by entities outside of the EU.

Amazon’s sovereign cloud is likely an attempt to allay some of those fears.

“The AWS European Sovereign Cloud reinforces our commitment to offering AWS customers the most advanced set of sovereignty controls, privacy safeguards, and security features available in the cloud,” said Max Peterson, vice president of Sovereign Cloud at AWS, in a press release.

For years, the EU has been concerned about the reliance on foreign, in particular U.S. firms, for cloud computing in the bloc. Europe has attempted to counter the growing size of cloud giants through an initiative called Gaia X, which aims to connect different cloud providers in the region, offering businesses more choice on the services they use.

Major U.S. technology giants have looked to boost their features to meet the need in the EU for “sovereign” clouds. Last year, Google Cloud introduced features, including limiting access to European data by EU residents within the bloc. And last year, Microsoft released its “Cloud for Sovereignty” features aiming to boost data control for customers.

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