Patriot Act power over data 'a red herring': AWS

Amazon Web Services has rejected concerns that its new locally hosted cloud offering in Australia will be subject to the controversial US Patriot Act.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor and  Chris Duckett, Contributor

As Amazon Web Services (AWS) launches in Australia for customers that were looking for locally based cloud services, the company has dismissed concerns that data hosted by AWS will still be subject to the US Patriot Act.

The hosting giant announced overnight that it has set up two "availability zones" or datacentres in Sydney, and will begin offering locally hosted cloud infrastructure services to Australian customers today. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has already begun moving its customer-facing services in AWS to Australia.

Local cloud companies such as Ninefold have used concerns about the US Patriot Act, which supposedly gives the US government unfettered access to data hosted by US companies anywhere in the world, as a selling point for why companies should "buy Australian" cloud hosting services, claiming that it is important for security-conscious organisations such as banking institutions and government agencies.

"If our customers require absolute certainty regarding the laws governing their data, there is only one way to achieve this: in an Australian-based data facility, owned and operated by an Australian company," Ninefold co-founder Peter James said in a press release yesterday.

Under the Patriot Act, US authorities can force a US-based company, such as Amazon, to hand over user data regardless of where the company stores that data around the world.

But AWS vice president of product management Adam Selipsky told ZDNet today that concerns over the application of the Patriot Act are "a red herring."

"We're headquartered in the US, and we are subject to US law, [but] the reality is that the Patriot Act is actually less severe than data-access laws in many of the countries with which we do business. If you look at what has happened so far, really none of those data-access laws have had any meaningful impact on our customers or our business," he said.

"It's really a bit of a red herring; it's not a factor that customers typically use in determining a technology infrastructure provider, mainly because it simply hasn't been an issue in practice."

Although CBA has been offered by AWS as one of the company's key clients, CBA CIO Michael Harte reportedly told The Australian that no private customer information would ever be put into the public domain.

Amazon did not disclose the specific locations of the datacentres that it has picked up in Sydney, but said that it will provide "single-digit millisecond performance" for customers in Sydney, and rapid performance across Australia and New Zealand.

Selipsky said that the two availability zones in Sydney would be independent of one another, with separate power and transit so that they would not be subject to the same disasters.

He would not confirm whether Equinix's Sydney datacentre is one of the locations, but did say that the company has a DirectConnect agreement in place with Equinix.

"Equinix is a partner of ours in our DirectConnect offering. We have a varied low-latency cross-connect with our partners, such as Equinix. In terms of our actual datacentres, we generally don't talk in great level of detail about those," he said.

Selipsky said that in pricing for the services, AWS looked very carefully at the costs in each region, and the prices in Australia reflect the cost for offering services.

"There are some areas where the prices are a little lower, and there are some areas where the prices are a little higher than the Sydney region. That's a direct reflection of the costs that we face in that region, but the philosophy [about price] is the same in each region."


Pricing in the Australian region is quite a hit-and-miss affair. For computing power, the prices are equivalent or even better than other Asia-Pacific instances, whereas storage is much more expensive in Australia. For Amazon's "Simple" services, the pricing is on par with the US.

With a standard on-demand instance of Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud, the pricing for Sydney is identical to that of Singapore, and cheaper than that being offered in Tokyo. Prices in the table below are in US dollars.

 US east LinuxUS east WindowsSydney LinuxSydney WindowsSingapore LinuxSingapore WindowsTokyo LinuxTokyo Windows
Small $0.065/hr $0.115/hr $0.085/hr $0.115/hr $0.085/hr $0.115/hr $0.092/hr $0.115/hr
Medium $0.130/hr $0.230/hr $0.170/hr $0.230/hr $0.170/hr $0.230/hr $0.184/hr $0.230/hr
Large $0.260/hr $0.460/hr $0.340/hr $0.460/hr $0.340/hr $0.460/hr $0.368/hr $0.460/hr
Extra large $0.520/hr $0.920/hr $0.680/hr $0.920/hr $0.680/hr $0.920/hr $0.736/hr $0.920/hr

Where Australia starts to feel the pinch is when it comes to storage. Using the Amazon Simple Storage Service, the pricing for a standard storage instance is as follows:

 US standardSydneySingaporeTokyo
First 1TB/month $0.125/GB $0.140/GB $0.125/GB $0.130/GB
Next 49TB/month $0.110/GB $0.125/GB $0.110/GB $0.115/GB
Next 450TB/month $0.095/GB $0.115/GB $0.095/GB $0.100/GB
Next 500TB/month $0.090/GB $0.105/GB $0.090/GB $0.095/GB
Next 4000TB/month $0.080/GB $0.095/GB $0.080/GB $0.085/GB
Over 5000TB/month $0.055/GB $0.070/GB $0.055/GB $0.060/GB

Of the regions offered for storage, only Sao Paulo is more expensive than Sydney.

A number of services, such as Simple Queue Service and Simple Notification Service, offer identical pricing in Australia and the US.

Editorial standards