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AWS' UK cloud hitched to British-based iron

Rents third party space for London region... not that anyone wants to talk specifics

Amazon has opened its long-awaited AWS jumping off point for UK cloud customers by renting racks in two separate third party-run British-based bit barns.

Up to now, AWS customers in Britain were served by company-owned server farms in Dublin, Frankfurt and one on the east coast of the US, but the business acknowledged demand from clients, including the UK government, to store data in local facilities.

Some 41 AWS services for the London region went live today, including Elastic Block 2 Store, ECS and Database Service. AWS said Trainline, Travis Perkins and Just Eat were getting ready to use them.

What AWS didn't want to talk about was the third party, or parties, that are providing the infrastructure, nor the capacity available, nor any other specifics.

Sources familiar with the situation told us AWS tendered the rack space contract to local data centre operators months back. AWS SLAs dictate it must have multiple data centres in one place for redundancy purposes.

El Reg put all this to AWS EMEA boss Gavin Jackson in September but he was not willing to talk in detail about the suppliers or, well, anything related to it.

"We don’t talk about it, we don’t talk about the make-up of any of our infrastructures, can’t tell you what we build or buy, the suppliers, the rentals and the sizes of this, that and the other. We just don’t talk about it."

Amazon’s rivals are also turning to leasing; in November, IBM royally announced four UK data centers each of which will be rented on somebody else’s tin.

Microsoft in September opened data centers in London, Cardiff and Durham serving Azure and Office 365. The firm wouldn’t say whether these were leased, but the group has leased and owned 100 facilities worldwide.

All are moving in to take advantage of an expanding UK cloud and data-center market. Also there's Brexit.

For the UK’s government and regulated industries, the presence of a UK operation will help side-step roadblocks that demand citizen records or customer’s financial information stay on servers inside the country.

Jackson told The Reg in our September interview: “UK governments have been asking for a while for a region here as have other regulated markets."

Another issue, he argued, was latency for IoT and devices – providers like AWS want to employ their servers as the data and analytics back end to smart clients.

“With IoT, mobile devices and such like, the proximity from compute to user will be more and more important, real time analytics, all those sorts of things, you’ll want compute and storage closer to where the user is,” Jackson told us.

As to Brexit, the UK government has played its cards close to its chest on what it will seek from Brussels while the actual process EU exit negotiations themselves have yet to start.

When they do, Article 50 - the EU exit negotiation window – could last for at least two years.

But organisations will need to know ahead of that on what terms the UK might have access to the EU in order to plan their future investment. They need to know whether to expand in the UK or open facilities in mainland Europe to remain within the single European framework.

And regardless of hard, soft of or red-white-and-blue Brexit, UK data handlers will need to adhere to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

GDPR will set new rules on anonymity of individuals’ data and responsibility on passing data to third parties, and give people greater power over removal of data.

Fines for breaches have swelled to record levels, now at up to €20m.

GDPR is expected to pass into law in May 2018 and if Article 50 is enacted in March 2017, the process would run until March 2019 meaning a 10-month window of GDPR.

The presence of cloud providers has widened UK firms' option of outsourcing the build commitment and responsibility of meeting terms of GDPR to somebody else.

Tiny Haynes, Gartner research director for infrastructure strategies, said at a recent Gartner conference in London: ‘The enquiries I’m seeing is people are going for cloud as it defers the need to build a data center. If you do want to move out of the UK, data center migration costs a lot and requires a lot of partners.” ®

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