Azure, Office 365: Microsoft's two new cloud regions tackle data privacy issues

Microsoft launches new two new datacenter regions, beating top dog in the cloud AWS to the mark in the UK.

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With the new UK regions, Microsoft now has 28 generally-available geographic areas for its cloud services.

Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has officially opened two new cloud regions, offering Azure and Office 365 from multiple datacenter locations in the UK for the first time.

The new UK regions take to 28 the number of Microsoft generally-available regions for its cloud infrastructure and platform services.

For UK enterprise customers, the regional services are also designed to provide a better option for meeting requirements to store certain data locally.

The new cloud areas are made up of UK West and UK South, served from datacenters in London and Cardiff, the capital of Wales.

Microsoft, which announced its UK plans in November, is launching with agreements from the UK Ministry of Defence and mental health agency the South London Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, to adopt its cloud services.

The MoD, which has 250,000 users, will use Office 365 and Azure cloud services, according to Microsoft, while the Trust will be using Microsoft's Azure services to support staff and health specialists who work remotely and in the community.

Both organizations notably hold sensitive information, which illustrates why Microsoft is investing in the new regions that of course also will be able to serve London's massive financial services industry.

"These new Microsoft Cloud regions will help businesses in industries such as banking, government, public sector and healthcare meet their customers' needs, the regulatory requirements they are held to, and the need for local data residency and replication for business continuity," Microsoft cloud and enterprise corporate VP Takeshi Numoto said in a statement.

As a US company, there have been concerns that US law enforcement can request access to data even if it's stored outside the US. To this end, Microsoft today highlighted its recent victory in quashing a warrant for access to email stored in its datacenter in Ireland and its broader advocacy of privacy issues in the cloud.

Microsoft's European Azure zone now boasts four European regions, including North Europe, West Europe, UK West and UK South regions, which are served from datacenters in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the new facilities in Cardiff and London.

"With the introduction of new regions in the UK, Microsoft has now announced 34 Azure regions around the world with 28 generally available today, more than any other major cloud provider," Numoto said.

The UK regions will help Microsoft compete with AWS, which has also announced that a new UK region will come online by the end of 2016 or early 2017, joining its existing Dublin and Frankfurt regions.

However, Microsoft is also taking a different approach to providing its services in Europe. Two of Microsoft's six new regions include two new datacenters in Germany slated for launch by the end of the year.

These two German regions be operated by 'data trustee' Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems. Under this arrangement, Microsoft won't have access to customer data and any government request for such data will need to go through T-Systems.

Microsoft also notes it is compliant with the EU-US Privacy Shield, the replacement to Safe Harbor, which was struck down by Europe's top court in part due to US surveillance activities revealed by Edward Snowden.

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