The AWS European Sovereign Cloud - What's so "sovereign" about it?

AWS is heralding the arrival of the European Sovereign Cloud, a purely European cloud. The first location will be in Germany. This should rest all concerns about data sovereignty. Or will it?

We don’t know much, but what we do know about AWS’ European Sovereign Cloud is that the US company is building an independent, purely European cloud. This was announced on October 24, 2023. The offering is physically and logically separate from the “normal” AWS cloud, which is currently available in eight European locations. Data and metadata will remain in the respective separate data center. Only AWS personnel based in the EU have control over the service, and the billing systems are also individual to each region. “This allows us to meet the increased requirements of highly regulated industries and sensitive government authorities,” says Max Peterson, who is responsible for the AWS sovereign cloud, in an interview with F.A.Z.

Only a few other details have been leaked. Germany will be the first region to benefit from the European Sovereign Cloud. Frankfurt is said to be a likely option, and it would also be open to other customers in Europe. Multiple availability zones, i.e., geographically separate locations, are intended to minimize the risk of outages - something that has already been in place at AWS. Also available in the European Sovereign Cloud are AWS Outposts with infrastructure at the customer’s premises and AWS Dedicated Local Zones with infrastructure reserved exclusively for customers. In fact, everything should feel the same for customers as in the “normal” AWS cloud, just with the added benefit of data sovereignty. Other US hyper-scalers have already announced similar offers or are already implementing them. AWS is now following suit.

German authorities welcome the European Sovereign Cloud

With the European Sovereign Cloud, AWS is clearly responding to concerns that sensitive information could end up in the USA and be analyzed by intelligence services under the pretext of counter-terrorism - a fear that has always accompanied the US hyper-scalers. German authorities welcome this development, including the Federal Office for Information Security, the Federal Ministry of the Interior and for Home Affairs, as well as the Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport.

But before we take a closer look at the offer, let’s remember: AWS revealed very little during the announcement. There is no timeline, and nothing is known about other features. Above all, AWS revealed nothing about how it will deal with regulations such as Safe Harbor and the Cloud Act. AWS has certainly given this some thought, as these issues are precisely why potential customers avoid a US cloud company. In this respect, the reports about the European Sovereign Cloud contain speculation, and we can only make a few basic observations.

Already sovereign

Companies considering entering the AWS cloud should not be unsettled by this announcement. AWS cloud customers are already in control of their data and can be assured that it will not fall into the wrong hands. In this respect, the name European Sovereign Cloud is not ideal. It suggests that everything up to now has not been sovereign. But of course that’s not true. When companies move to the AWS cloud, they use highly secure and advanced technologies that offer a high degree of control.

The AWS cloud is already a perfect fit for 99 percent of all potential customers. The European Sovereign Cloud is an offer to the one percent that were previously unable to use a non-European, public cloud provider for regulatory reasons. kreuzwerker already supports customers from highly regulated industries in the AWS cloud. Such industries include healthcare, finance and public authorities that work with social data, and of course critical infrastructures such as energy supply. One example is Gematik. When you hold your patient card up to the reader at the doctor’s, the information goes to a Gematik data center - for now, because the company is migrating its processes to the AWS cloud together with kreuzwerker. And personal health data is some of the most sensitive information of all.

kreuzwerker’s relocation service

If you have been hesitant to move to the AWS cloud, European Sovereign Cloud’s announcement could be the game changer. Ideally, make the move with kreuzwerker. We can clarify whether the European Sovereign Cloud is an option or whether the “normal” AWS cloud isn’t already the best solution. The good news is: if the European Sovereign Cloud takes off and you come to the conclusion that it’s right for you, then we’ll simply move your installation from the AWS cloud to the European Sovereign Cloud. After all, the technology is the same; the computers are just in a different building. This means that you won’t have to wait to reap the benefits of the many AWS cloud advantages. You can and should get started now with your digitalization project, and not have to worry about reaching a technological dead end.

Conclusion: AWS’ European Sovereign Cloud is a move in the right direction. But there are still some unanswered questions. As an AWS partner, we at kreuzwerker are at the source of the information and can answer your questions competently - and guide you safely into the cloud right now.