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Google has announced the first major partnership to advance its previously stated mission of offering businesses more data sovereignty. This effort is aimed at organizations that require more flexibility and control over their data, don’t want to rely on a single cloud provider based in an entirely different country, or simply want to avoid vendor lock-in.
The internet giant has revealed a new joint service with Deutsche Telekom’s IT services and consulting subsidiary T-Systems, which will “manage sovereignty controls and measures” such as encryption and identity management of the Google Cloud Platform for Germany-based customers who need it. Moreover, T-Systems — an existing Google Cloud technology partner — will oversee other integral parts of the Google Cloud infrastructure as part of the new T-Systems Sovereign Cloud. This includes supervising physical or virtual access to sensitive infrastructure, as in routine maintenance and upgrades.
It’s all about enabling German enterprises and public sector bodies, including health care organizations, to assert more control over their sensitive data on an independently managed platform while still benefiting from the power of Google’s technology and expertise.
Data sovereignty has emerged as a thorny issue in the world of cloud computing, with consumers and businesses alike increasingly concerned about where their data lives, who actually owns it, and who they might be sharing it with. Throw into the mix the growing array of regional regulations — like GDPR — that dictate where data must be stored and where it can or can’t be transferred, and it’s clear that while cloud computing spend might be going through the roof, the landscape has become trickier to navigate.
As such, major cloud providers (including Google) continue to extend their datacenter reach to new regions, which not only helps improve data transfer speeds and reduce latency, but allows them to offer enterprises some data residency controls. But that still doesn’t go far enough for certain industries and markets that require a tighter control over how their data is handled, particularly as pertains to personally identifiable information (PII).
The open source factor
This is a problem open source players have also set out to solve, as myriad commercial open source SaaS platforms emerge to offer more data control and autonomy than their proprietary rivals. Europe has also been pushing open source as a way to free itself from the shackles of Silicon Valley companies. Just this week, the European Commission (EC) published a report that sheds light on the impact open source technology has had on the European economy, noting that a 10% increase in contributions to open source projects could generate an extra 0.4% to 0.6% GDP and lead to an additional 600 technology startups across the region.
With that in mind, Google’s extended partnership with T-Systems has specific provisions for “openness and transparency,” including supporting easy integrations with existing IT environments and serving up access to Google’s “open source expertise that provides freedom of choice and prevents lock-in,” according to a press release.
The first fruits of Google’s partnership with T-Systems are expected to land in mid-2022, with Google noting that this is the first of several such tie-ups with local technology providers in Europe.
This is a similar model to what we’ve seen in other regions around the world, including in China, which introduced a law in 2017 stipulating that foreign companies must not only store data locally, but also work directly with local partners. Amazon, for example, had to partner with two local entities when it expanded its AWS cloud unit into China. By contrast, Google’s decision to partner with T-Systems isn’t a legal or regulatory requirement, but it goes some way toward meeting data sovereignty expectations, particularly in tightly regulated industries with strict data protection needs.
“The sovereign cloud solution we are partnering with T-Systems to create will provide public and private-sector organizations with an additional layer of technical and operational measures and controls that ensure German customers can meet their data, operational, and software sovereignty requirements,” Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian said.
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