Amazon launches German cloud region in nod to privacy concerns

German region is 11th for AWS, some of whose customers seek to avoid potential U.S. data snooping

Amazon Web Services launched a new region of its cloud in Germany Thursday, in part to serve customers who want to keep data within their country’s borders.

Germany has some of the strictest laws in the world related to data sovereignty and Amazon Senior Vice President Andy Jassy, who heads up the company’s cloud computing division, acknowledged that as a driving factor for opening the company’s newest region in Germany.

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Amazon’s cloud service now includes a Frankfurt region in Germany

“We have thousands of AWS customers here in Germany who have been using AWS from other regions,” Jassy said during a virtual briefing from Munich. “And a lot of those customers have asked us to have a region here in Germany because they have other workloads they’d like to move to AWS but feel they can’t do so until there’s infrastructure here in Germany.”

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Concerns about putting data in the cloud have intensified since former national security contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations surfaced about U.S. government snooping on consumers and businesses. Those fears have created reluctance by some international companies to place data in U.S. data centers, and a desire for some U.S. companies to store data outside the country.

Jassy addressed those concerns by saying AWS critically examines any government demand for customer data and vehemently fights what it believes to be overreaching government requests. If Amazon is required to hand over any customer data because of a subpoena, AWS informs the customer. Jassy added that one way customers can protect their data is by encrypting it and holding the keys themselves, through a service Amazon calls Cloud Hardware Security Module (HSM).

The new German region will be the company’s 11th and the second in Europe.

Jassy said that in addition to privacy considerations, another reason for opening the German location is to allow European customers to spread workloads across regions. The company is also experiencing rapid growth in Europe, which the new region will support, Jassy said.

Prices for the company’s EC2 virtual machines in the Frankurt region begin at $0.015 per hour, which is slightly higher than the $0.013 price for US-East VMs, but still less than the California ($0.017), Asia/Pacific (Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney are $0.020) and Sao Paulo ($0.027) regions. AWS has other regions in Oregon, Ireland, Beijing and a GovCloud region for government workloads.

An AWS region comprises multiple data centers, which Amazon calls Availability Zones. The Frankfurt region has two AZs that run on carbon-neutral power. Not all of AWS’s services are yet available in the region (see this list of which are).

Amazon is not the first cloud provider with German data centers, with IBM and Fujitsu being among the others that do.

This is the second major news announcement from AWS this week. Earlier, the company announced AWS Directory Service, which allows customers to store their authentication directories in Amazon’s cloud.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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