UK partners have hailed Microsoft's plans to open a local datacentre, branding the move "absolutely crucial" for customers in light of a recent surge in the importance of data residency.
Yesterday, at its Future Decoded event in London, Microsoft's chief executive Satya Nadella announced plans to build a UK datacentre next year at an as yet undisclosed location.
Data residency has become a hot topic following a multitude of stories emerging about government spying programmes, which have sparked fears among some customers.
Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that the Safe Harbour agreement, which once protected transatlantic data transfers of EU citizens, is now invalid.
Chris Dunning, founder of Microsoft partner TechQuarters, told CRN that the plans to open a British location will make life considerably easier for the channel, describing the news as "fantastic".
"It's absolutely crucial," he said. "When you're talking to businesses, the old ‘whereabouts is [the data]? Is it in the UK?' comes up all the time. It precludes too many businesses. You go in there [to customers] and you're having to put their data on your own rack in your own datacentre. We have three datacentres we deal with ourselves – we'd provision our own customers on those if there was a problem with privacy of data."
He said this will not need to happen when Microsoft's UK datacentre is up and running.
"We don't own the datacentre; we have a rack with a bit of kit in," he said. "It's useful for backing up data... as a disaster recovery solution. We are paring down and are not investing at all in our own datacentres – everything goes in Azure or [Office] 365.
"[But] if we're in a tender position, we still need the capability if Microsoft didn't have the datacentre in the UK. Now it has, it's absolutely awesome. We won't be putting anything on our own datacentres, I can guarantee you."
Last week, Amazon Web Services announced that the UK would become its third "region", meaning it will build a local datacentre presence here.
Angus MacSween, CEO of Microsoft and AWS partner iomart – which operates a number of its own UK datacentres – said Microsoft's move is not competitive.
"This is an opportunity for us, not a threat," he said. "It gives the green light for organisations in the UK that have been wary of using Azure and AWS to move ahead. They will need the expertise of a managed service provider like us to help migrate them to and manage those services."
Analyst TechMarketView was more skeptical about the move.
"We wonder just how much difference a datacentre sited on Blighty's shores – as opposed to those of continental Europe or Ireland (both companies already own Dublin facilities) – can make to boosting those capabilities and convincing customers they are getting a better deal," it said.
"It's always hard to tell what direction the law will take, and whether at any point regulated UK organisations will be compelled to store data within UK boundaries. But one thing we do know is that Safe Harbour is bad publicity for AWS and Microsoft. Opening UK datacentres averts a potential backlash, expands capacity and builds a solid platform for future service growth."
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