Google Cloud sets out new encryption controls as it looks to grow in Europe

Google Cloud announces new partnerships, features and tools with the aim of wooing more European customers.
Written by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet, Contributor

Google Cloud wants to host European data, even going as far as to get the manager of England's national football team, Gareth Southgate, to explain to the audience at an event in London that the Football Association would be "completely lost" without the data analytics Google Cloud now provides about training and performance.

Thomas Kurian, the CEO of Google Cloud, made no secret of the company's plans to increase its presence in Europe. 

As the event kicked off, he said: "We are deepening our commitment to European customers, and we are giving them a cloud designed to meet the strictest regulatory requirements here in Europe."

Several security announcements aimed to back this claim. Google's customers can already keep all the copies of their data stored in Europe; the information is encrypted by default, and users can also manage or supply their own encryption key.

SEE: Cloud v. data center decision (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

The company, however, is now launching a new tool called External Key Manager that allows customers to keep encryption keys outside Google's control. 

Instead of trusting Google with encryption keys for sensitive data, they can store those keys externally, either on-premise or with external hosting partners.

In addition, users can require that Google asks for approval before operators access the data it stores; and when permission is given, a record will be created including the time and place of access as well as the reason the data was decrypted.  

"You can even deny Google the ability to decrypt your data for any reason," said Kurian. "You have the sole control of where your data sits, how it is encrypted and who has access to it."

This is key, he continued, to meeting strict data regulations in Europe – and falls in line with Google's recent efforts to expand its cloud services to the continent.

The company recently announced that it is opening a new cloud hub in Poland, and Google's CEO Sundar Pichai announced at the same time that the company will invest $3.3 billion to expand its European data centres over the next two years.

Google already has six cloud locations in Europe, out of the 20 hubs it operates around the world. 

Its main competitor, Amazon-controlled AWS, is building its seventh European location in Spain. The facility will open in 2022 or 2023.

With just 7% of the global cloud infrastructure market share, Google Cloud is still a long way behind AWS, which holds 32.6% of the same market. But the search and advertising giant's renewed commitment to Europe shows that it is determined to strengthen its position.

Alistair Edwards, chief analyst at technology firm Canalys, told ZDNet that securing a share of the cloud market comes down to various factors.

"Customers are attached to the idea of keeping their data close, so cloud providers need to have a geographical, in-country presence to compete," he said.

"But of course, once this is done, they also need to give a layer of credibility and trust to their customers." 

SEE: Google adds new Cloud region in Poland

A strategy that Google has understood, judging by the stronger security measures it has presented today as created specifically for Europe. 

The company additionally announced various partnerships designed to smooth the process of migrating to the cloud.

A new program dubbed Cloud Acceleration, for example, targets on-premises SAP workloads and will let users migrate and optimize SAP applications on Google Cloud through blueprints, technical support and employee training.

Earlier this week, Google also announced that it is acquiring CloudSimple to bolster VMWare implementation services. Companies will now be able to move their mission-critical workloads that use VMWare to the cloud, "with fully maintained business continuity," insisted Kurian.

For those running NetApp storage on their premises, the Cloud Volumes Services was created last month to deliver a fully managed hybrid cloud storage solution, with NetApp clusters connecting directly to Google Cloud clusters. 

"We can see more organizations working with hybrid and multi-cloud models," said Edwards. "Having an efficient network of partners that can make managing those models an easier task is a critical differentiator for cloud providers." 

Google is working hard, therefore, on expanding its ecosystem of channel partners to make switching to the cloud ever-more seamless, and to attract more users – especially European ones.

In addition to the Football Association in England, the tech giant boasted various European customers successfully migrating to Google Cloud, including John Lewis and Partners, Revolut, Monzo, Commerzbank and HSBC. 

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