VMware Sovereign Cloud to Address Data Privacy, Market Monopoly, and ESG Concerns

C. Drake

Summary Bullets:

  • VMware’s Sovereign Cloud Initiative aims to help customers engage with trusted national and local cloud providers, which meet geo-specific requirements relating to data sovereignty and jurisdictional control.
  • The initiative will appeal to those with concerns about potential data privacy abuses, service provider monopolies, and the challenges associated with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) commitments.

At its recent annual conference, IT infrastructure vendor VMware reaffirmed its commitment to a multi-cloud future – one where the majority of enterprises will store, run, and manage their digital data, services, and applications across multiple locations, including traditional data centers and one or more public cloud data centers.

To usher in this multi-cloud future, VMware has been busy forging partnerships with the world’s largest cloud service providers, including U.S.-based tech giants Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud as well as China’s Alibaba Cloud.  These partnerships have spawned a series of hybrid cloud offerings, which allow customers to maintain and manage data and other workloads within their own data centers and within leading cloud service provider facilities.

However, at VMworld 2021, VMware announced a new strategy, one which could see some enterprises decrease their reliance on the global cloud service providers and increasingly shift towards a more decentralized approach to storing data and applications.  VMware’s new Sovereign Cloud Initiative aims to help customers engage with trusted national and local cloud service providers, which meet geo-specific requirements relating to data sovereignty and jurisdictional control, data access and integrity, data security and compliance, data independence and mobility, and data analytics and innovation.

VMware’s commitment to sovereign clouds is partly a response to initiatives such as GAIA-X, which was started by France and Germany in late 2019 and aims to establish a next-generation data infrastructure for European cloud service customers.  The emphasis on sovereignty addresses concerns about potential abuses of data privacy, as well as concerns that cloud computing and data storage services will be dominated by a handful of providers based in foreign jurisdictions.

But the interest in data sovereignty goes beyond basic concerns about data privacy and hyperscale cloud monopolies.  It is also closely tied to a growing commitment among enterprises to ESG goals.  Enterprise ESG goals are partly determined by the laws, regulations, and standards of the political jurisdiction in which enterprises are based or operate.  Increasingly, locally based sovereign cloud providers are seen as having an advantage over large international cloud providers because of their familiarity with local laws and standards.  Many of them are also potentially better placed to hire in-country resources and to give back to local communities.

VMware has announced its first Sovereign Cloud designated partners, which include European cloud service providers such as UKCloud, OVHcloud, and Telefonica as well as partners in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  VMware Sovereign Cloud partners deliver Cloud Verified services and utilize architecture built on VMware Validated Designs (VVDs) for Cloud Providers.  This is meant to ensure they can design, architect, and secure compliant clouds faster and efficiently.  VMware Sovereign Cloud partners must also commit to a framework of self-guiding principles, best practices, and technical architecture requirements to deliver cloud services that adhere to the data sovereignty requirements of the specific jurisdiction in which they operate.

Telecom network operators stand to benefit from the growing interest in sovereign clouds.  Notable GAIA-X members include Deutsche Telekom, Orange, TIM, Proximus, and Telekom Austria, and in time, it is possible that some of these companies could also join VMware’s Sovereign Cloud Initiative.

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