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Key geographies still missing in AWS data center locations

AWS data center locations are growing in number and Amazon cloud users have ideas about where the company should expand next in its quest for world domination.

New AWS data center locations will pop up around the globe in the next year, with expansion planned in the U.K.,...

South Korea, India and the central U.S., and cloud users say the list shouldn't stop there.

With the addition of regions in the U.K., India and South Korea planned for 2016, Amazon Web Services (AWS) will face off against Microsoft Azure, which has existing data centers in 20 locations, two of which are in Virginia, while there are 11 existing Amazon regions, including GovCloud. Microsoft is not standing still, however; it disclosed plans for expansion in Europe and the U.K. this week.

IT pros and cloud consultants in North America hope for an AWS region in Canada, where Microsoft already plans to expand its Azure cloud in 2016.

One consultant said he's encountered data privacy regulations with one client who looked to do business in Canada. "In the higher education space, we have worked with data [privacy] issues in Canada, so it would be nice [to have] a region there," said Christopher Riley, a founding partner at HKM Consulting LLC, based in Rochester, Mass. 

Other consultants said their clients had run into similar issues in Canada.

"A Canadian data center would be useful … since data privacy laws are not the same in Canada as they are in the United States, and the closest regions at this juncture are either Ireland or Tokyo if a company does not want to host their data or systems in a U.S. region," said Adam Book, senior cloud architect for Relus Technologies LLC, a cloud consulting firm in Peachtree Corners, Ga.

Right now, Canadian provinces, including British Columbia and Nova Scotia, have data sovereignty laws, but with a new administration taking office in the country, there are fears those laws could become stricter and nationalized, according to Theodore Kim, senior director of software as a service (SaaS) operations for Jobvite Inc., a talent acquisition software maker in San Mateo, Calif.

"One of the fears is Canada coming out with additional [personally identifiable information] requirements," Kim said. "We'd love to have the option of a Canadian data center, and I think a lot of other U.S. companies would -- we do a lot of business in Canada."

Russia could also be an area for Amazon to target in the future, Kim said, as a new law passed in late 2014 mandated that personal data belonging to Russians be stored in databases located in Russia.

This caused Kim's company to pull out of the country in early 2015.

"They mandated that any SaaS provider had to host within Russia -- something we simply couldn't do," Kim said.

Kim and others also pointed out the difficulties of doing business with Amazon in China, though the company does have AWS data center locations there.

Companies that want to host data in the AWS Beijing region today have to get a Chinese Internet Content Provider license and create totally separate accounts to serve data there. The region remains in limited preview.

"China is becoming more and more of a player among our customers with a large presence there," Kim said. "But it's extremely difficult to do business there."

AWS consultants also predicted AWS data center locations will become more plentiful in Europe, where each country has its own data protection laws. Amazon is most likely to expand its AWS data center locations in Spain, Italy and France, according to Patrick McClory, director of automation and DevOps for Datapipe Inc., a provider of managed hosting services for AWS based in Jersey City, N.J.

"There will most likely be another region in Europe, further west from Frankfurt, [Germany]," McClory said.

This prediction was echoed by HKM's Riley. Years ago, while working with a financial client in England, a project he oversaw ran into restrictions due to European data protection laws, which required services be provided in the country of origin -- which for the ten CTOs involved in the project, included Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Ireland, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.

"Back in 2010, AWS only had one European region, one Asia-Pacific and then the U.S.," he said. "So, in general, I think for the Euro Zone, [a data center] is required in every country to support financial regulations."

Despite recent attention paid to the retraction of a longstanding Safe Harbor agreement relied on by many companies to do business with European entities, experts said Amazon's expansion probably wasn't prompted by the ruling.

"With the data center in Frankfurt, they were meeting the EU requirements for residency, so they didn't really need Safe Harbor anyway," said Renee Murphy, senior analyst for Forrester Research Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. "With the Ireland data center, they were giving the U.K., England included, data residency if they want it -- I am guessing that U.K. customers have hit critical mass and opening a data center there finally makes sense."

In the meantime, AWS shops in the U.S. are also hopeful that reports of an AWS data center location construction project in Ohio will come to fruition in 2016.

"The Central U.S. could use an expansion," said Aater Suleman, CEO of Flux7, an Amazon consulting partner based in Austin, Texas. "There's sometimes a 37 millisecond delay from Dallas to Virginia, and several customers have asked us if there will be a central region."

Amazon declined to comment for this story.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.  

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