IBM Watson GPU cloud cluster Brexits from London to Frankfurt – because GDPR

Users have migration work to do in the next month. Good thing nobody's busy right now, eh?

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IBM Cloud will lift and shift its GPU cluster from London to Frankfurt to avoid falling foul of GDPR post-Brexit.

Big Blue slipped out the news in a Tuesday post that announced: “Watson Machine Learning will migrate the GPU cluster from London to Frankfurt to serve European Union clients due to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance requirements.”

This one’s down to Brexit because once the UK completely and utterly leaves the European Union at the end of 2020, Blighty will become a "third country" under Europe's privacy rules. That means, simply put for the purposes of this article, personal data can flow from the UK into the EU, but not from the EU into UK (unless Europe deems the UK adequately obeys GDPR, post-Brexit).

In other words, as things stand right now, IBM's European customers won't be able to transfer personal data to the London-based GPU cluster for processing, but IBM's British customers will be able to transfer personal data to an EU-based cluster for processing.

As such, IBM’s fired up a GPU cluster in Frankfurt, Germany, and will pull the plug on the one in the UK capital on May 21. IBM says users on either side of the Brexit divide need to do the following if they want to keep using Watson beyond the London GPU cluster shutdown:

  • Create a Watson Machine Learning instance in Frankfurt if you don’t have one;
  • Use the Frankfurt instance for all new training jobs;
  • Save intermediate results of current running jobs in London, if possible.

The GPU-accelerated workloads Watson runs do take a while, and IBM recognizes it may not therefore be possible to save intermediate results before its deadline. If you’re in that boat, log a support case and Big Blue will do its best to sort things out.

The IT titan also noted "users don’t need to move data," which we take to mean data stored right now in the UK can stay there because EU and British customers can access it post-Brexit. The cluster has to move to Germany because post-Brexit, European customers won't be able to transfer personal data to the UK cluster to process due to GDPR.

It's likely other cloud services will need to make similar migrations as the final Brexit date nears. Which means that while this story is that rare piece of news not related to the current colossal geopolitical coronavirus SNAFU and its impact on IT departments, it reminds us that the last colossal geopolitical SNAFU can still dispense plenty of pain. ®

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