AWS opens Frankfurt region, courts EU enterprises

Like other U.S. based cloud vendors, AWS is trying to expand in the EU and allay concerns about NSA snooping.

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Amazon Web Services on Thursday launched a new data center in Frankfurt, Germany to add its 11th region and second in the European Union. The aim: Court EU enterprises worried about cloud computing and complying with data protection laws.

The company now has EU infrastructure in Ireland and Germany. For AWS, the local regions enable customers to keep their content within the EU.

AWS's latest region complies with all EU data protection laws and features processing agreements so customers can comply. The Frankfurt region has two availability zones at launch and AWS said combined with the Ireland region customers should have enough redundancy.

Like other U.S. cloud and technology customers, AWS has to dig out from the damage done by the NSA snooping revelations. The NSA has curtailed sales for some multinational technology companies and created skepticism about U.S. giants. For tech companies, the NSA damage has to be addressed since future growth is likely to come from markets abroad.

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In a virtual press conference, Andy Jassy, senior vice president of AWS, noted that "customers control the data and it just looks like a blob to us."

AWS' biggest hurdle in the EU is fears of the U.S. government — notably the NSA —snooping into cloud data. When asked about U.S. government snooping, Jassy said:

"Most enterprises that care deeply about the issue encrypt their data. If any government around the world asks for data from AWS we don't respond unless it's a court ordered request. The next thing we check is whether it's accurate or overreaching."

And if AWS thinks the request is overreaching "we challenge very aggressively," said Jassy.

If the data request isn't overreaching and is court ordered, AWS notifies the customer so the enterprise can advocate for their own position. But "in practice the issue hasn't affected our customers at all," said Jassy.

Customers for the Frankfurt region have access all AWS services ranging from compute to storage to cloud management and database tools. AWS' strategy is to convince EU customers that it can keep data safe for regulated companies and then argue that it can innovate faster with good pricing.

Jassy argued that Amazon's approach is different from large technology companies. "We're comfortable with low margin businesses," said Jassy. "Customers have voted with their workloads."

AWS touted German customers such as Talanx, Hubert Burda Media, SAP, Axel Springer as well as startups such as 6Wunderkinder, EyeEm, mytaxi, Onefootball, Soundcloud, and Wooga. AWS also listed a series of systems integrators as well as ecosystem partners in Europe. 

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