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AWS data center locations spring up in anticipation of new regulations

AWS is rapidly expanding into new geographies, such as Canada and South Korea, as new regulatory requirements loom.

New AWS data center locations are proliferating as the new year begins.

A location in Montreal is one of five new data center regions for AWS this year, with others planned in China, India, Ohio and the United Kingdom.

Amazon customers said this AWS data center expansion is due to an equally extensive proliferation of regulatory requirements around the globe.

For example, Canada passed the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) in June 2015, imposing new regulations governing data privacy and collection, as well as governing when data may be disclosed, such as to law enforcement investigations.

"When trying to comply with PIPEDA, and [with] some Canadian firms hesitant to put their data in American data centers, you were left with a latency choice of Ireland or Tokyo," said Adam Book, principal engineer and senior cloud architect for Relus Technologies, a cloud consulting firm. 

As Book and others have pointed out, though, Canada is too large a region and economy to ignore.

"With Canada having a top 10 [gross domestic product] economic rating in 2015, this is a great move by AWS," he said.

Montreal is a great start, added Christopher Riley, a founding partner at HKM Consulting. He has clients in higher education who are concerned about regulations and data privacy in Canada, and will benefit from the new location, he said.

"There were two regions, Germany and Canada, that we were looking for most," said Theodore Kim, senior director of software as a service operations for Jobvite Inc., a talent acquisition software maker.

The most stringent privacy laws may be yet to come in those countries as well, Kim said.

"AWS is obviously being very, very careful and preplanning for changes to [personally identifiable information] regulatory requirements," Kim said.

Still, there is management and cost overhead involved in launching a product in a new AWS region, Kim noted, meaning his organization is trying to prioritize into which regions it will expand. Startup costs can easily number in the thousands of dollars to replicate an environment in a different AWS region.

"We can't be opening up in new data centers all over the world -- there is a startup cost to doing that," Kim said. Germany and Canada are two big regions where his company has a number of customers, some of them American multinationals operating overseas.

Last week, Amazon made its new region in Seoul, South Korea, open for business. Amazon cited both network latency advantages and regulatory compliance concerns in opening its fourth region in Asia-Pacific.

"Every AWS region is built and designed to meet rigorous compliance standards," according to the AWS blog on the opening of the South Korean region. The most recent example of this commitment is validation by an independent third party on ISO 27018, the first international code of practice to focus on protection of personal data in the cloud, according to the blog post.

Still, while Amazon and Microsoft Azure, among others, are vying for supremacy in global data center locations in anticipation of new regulations, some of those regulations have yet to actually to be passed into law.

For example, late last year, after the Safe Harbor agreement -- which many companies relied on to do business in Europe -- was struck down in court, the European Parliament approved data protection reform legislation that will only be published in full this month and will take effect in two years. It remains to be seen whether countries that have been most vocal on data privacy concerns, such as Germany, will be on board with the new legislation.

In the meantime, AWS users have mentioned Russia, further expansion in China, Africa and new regions in Spain, Italy and France as being on the wish list for more AWS data center locations in the near future.

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

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