With conflicts emerging In Europe and the Middle East in the last couple of years and spilling over into the cyber-domain, governments are realizing the importance of data security as part of the overall national defense strategy.
At the same time, there is a clear need for more of the government and citizen data to be available on the cloud to provide digital government services. 'Sovereign clouds' provide a potential solution to this dichotomy.
This is a cloud infrastructure delivered within national borders and adhering to local data privacy standards. This includes having the underlying physical infrastructure fully located in the country, and being operated by the nation’s citizens.
It is fundamentally built upon the following three tenets:
1. Data residency: Ensuring data storage within the geographical boundaries of the concerned jurisdiction and providing location and access visibility.
2. Data security: Ensuring secure operations and compliance with local data privacy laws and regulations.
3. Data governance: Governing data ownership and prohibiting extraterritorial access to any government or private entity.
A sovereign cloud enables the government, private entities, and their partners to build, deploy, and manage mission-critical workloads in the cloud with stringent security and compliance controls.
Trust and independence
Sovereign clouds can establish trust among individuals and clients who prioritize data privacy and security, thanks to their transparent and responsible data management structure. As these are owned and operated by specific countries or regions, they reduce reliance on foreign data centers and servers.
Major cloud service providers (CSPs) - such as AWS, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle - are focussing on localizing infrastructure within each country or jurisdiction. This effort aims to align with data sovereignty requirements, often done in collaboration with local technology partners.
The latest is Microsoft’s collaboration with G42, an Abu Dhabi-based AI and cloud computing company, to introduce a sovereign cloud solution in the UAE via the latter's Khazna Data Centers. This is aimed at providing a secure environment for the public sector and regulated industries to safeguard sensitive data and make use of the latest cloud technologies, and advanced AI features available on Microsoft's Azure public cloud.
Dynamic regulatory environment
The constantly changing and varied policies and regulations add complexity to the cloud environment, particularly for multinational organizations. Over 100 countries have implemented rules related to data privacy and the requirement to keep data within national borders.
As a result, adhering to regional regulatory guidelines has become the central consideration for enterprises when searching for cloud providers.
Another crucial consideration is Generative AI. In the realm of large language models, data privacy holds even greater significance. Earlier this year, the European Parliament enforced the AI Act, introducing more stringent regulations for Gen AI services such as ChatGPT.
This underscores the importance of implementing a sovereign cloud strategy that not only addresses data residency and security requirements but also establishes rules regarding data ownership and blocks access by foreign governments or private entities.
Integrate sovereign cloud into a multi-cloud strategy
Globally, about 89 per cent of cloud adopters utilize the hybrid cloud, whereas 76 per cent of cloud adopters deploy multi-cloud environments. With the growing adoption of multi-cloud strategies, data privacy and integrity have become paramount concerns, particularly in highly regulated sectors such as banking, insurance, healthcare, utilities, and government.
There’s a constant risk of sensitive data inadvertently crossing into regions governed by different data sovereignty regulations. To address this, integrating sovereign clouds into a multi-cloud approach offers significant data security advantages, as these clouds physically reside in the countries they support.
This allows organizations to transition data from a sovereign cloud to a public cloud for advanced analytics while maintaining robust security measures to protect their results. Though sovereign clouds come with built-in security features - including encryption, access controls, and network segmentation tailored to specific countries or regions - it’s crucial to complement these features with a comprehensive data privacy strategy centered around zero-trust principles.
In a multicloud environment, it is thus essential to identify and classify data or applications subject to local privacy laws.
The fear of data breaches during geopolitical conflicts can rapidly apply brakes on cloud adoption in a country leading to disruption of citizen services and global connectivity. Sovereign clouds provide a means to retain the positives of the cloud while minimizing the risks. And this will drive the momentum towards sovereign clouds…