With security and fears of data leaving the country at the top of IT managers' list of concerns about cloud computing, the announcement today by service provider Rackspace that it will locate its cloud infrastructure for UK customers in the UK will be noted by those looking for a large enterprise hosting provider. It means that Rackspace's data – sorry, I mean your data -- will be stored and processed without leaving the country.
This will help ensure compliance with legislation such as the Data Protection Act 1984 which, among other provisions, mandates that data shall not leave the country unless that country provides similar data protection as the UK's legislation.
Analysts have welcomed the move, with Freeform Dynamics' Tony Lock telling silicon.com that: "geographical location of data is important. A lot of the US vendors don’t appreciate that having a cloud-based infrastructure that’s located geographically in the US means that almost all European countries have data that they can’t possibly shift there legally."
Lock added though that Rackspace, which is one of the largest hosting providers, still needs to make clear what happens in the event of a failure of the UK end of the company's systems. If data is pulled back to the USA, as opposed to migrating it to somewhere else within the EU, it falls under US legislation, including the Patriot Act, which gives the US government wide-ranging powers over your data, including wire-tapping, searching and forfeiture.
One other benefit of Rackspace's move could be reduced latency: if you're not pulling data from across the pond, you might see it arrive somewhat faster.
Latency is a function of the electrical characteristics of the circuit and is often misunderstood, albeit frequently experienced. As a random example, if I ping rackspace.com, which is located in the USA, I get a time delay of 89ms, which is fairly typical. Pinging the BBC's site in contrast results in a drop to 16ms. In practice, many applications are quite chatty, with lots of back and forth between client and server. It's not network friendly and means that, over a link with high latency, each conversation with the server end takes longer, even if there's no bandwidth limitation; the end result will be delay and frustrated users.
Companies especially interested in low latency tend to be in the financial services area, so this move by Rackspace could signal a desire to muscle into London's lucrative financial sector.