The sovereign cloud isn’t just about privacy; actually, it is about national economies. Because if you’re not able to keep your data with you; you’re not able to share your data with trusted parties, you can never be part of an ecosystem.
VMware Director for Cloud Solutions Architects (Asia Pacific and Japan) Kishor Bhagwat (left in pic above) believes that governments across the globe have started to take the concept of the sovereign cloud – and the need to use sovereign clouds – very seriously.
“Increasing digitalisation is impacting personal data, corporate data, and national data. When you have increasing digitalisation of information, you obviously start to get into more national security concerns, privacy concerns, confidentiality, intellectual property concerns, etc.,” he explained.
Kishor said this during the 6th episode of AVM Cloud’s ‘Fit Into The Cloud’ podcast series, hosted by AVM Cloud Chief Strategy Officer Srinivas Rao (pic – right). VMware is one of AVM Cloud’s strategic partners.
He notes that both the private and the public sector are wising up to the pressing need for using sovereign cloud architectures in specific circumstances.
“As more and more companies embark on digital transformation, they realise that they are now exposed to these sorts of questions. Every country is now starting to raise the bar when it comes to sharing of any sort of data. The sovereign cloud is a reaction to the cloud computing trend, realising how important data is and also how important it is to protect that data.
“The sovereign cloud isn’t just about privacy; actually, it is about national economies. Because if you’re not able to keep your data with you; you’re not able to share your data with trusted parties, you can never be part of an ecosystem. And if you can’t be part of an ecosystem, you will never grow. You need that ecosystem to be able to leverage the data, create innovation out of data analytics, insights, etc.”
According to Kishor, VMware sees the sovereign cloud concept not as a solution, but rather a framework around some guiding principles and best practices within the requirements.
“Every country defines sovereignty differently, depending on the political landscape, geopolitical concerns, and so we believe a framework is the right way to keep that flexibility.
“When we talk about data, we’re talking about two different kinds. One is customer content. It’s your databases; your information. And then the other is metadata, or account information. Many people have control over their own content, but have no idea about how their account information is being used. That is usually protected with just a privacy statement, and not really considered to be ubnder your ownership or your information.
“The second aspect is the residency; if the data is within the physical national boundaries of my jurisdiction, then that’s considered resident data. Meanwhile, data sovereignty is related to the source of the information. if it’s my citizens’ data, then I should have full control over no matter where the data physically is. So residency is related to physical location, GPS coordinates basically, whereas sovereignty is related to the origin and source of the data. So sovereignty extends beyond physical boundaries.”
The importance of VMware Cloud Provider Partners
Kishor also notes that sovereign cloud implementations are by and large undertaken by local service providers.
“Governments are now thinking that if they have to give this data to someone, why not deal with companies that they have jurisdiction over, that they can control. They also have this effect of creating local jobs, and growing the economy through the building of more datacentres and all the economic effects of having good telecommunications infrastructure.”
Hence, Kishor adds, the importance of VMware Cloud Provider Partners (VCPPs), and not just to VMware.
“You can look at our investor calls over the last few quarters, VCPP gets a mention every time because customers and partners and governments are telling us that ‘we need somebody local’; somebody who understands us, and somebody we can control with our laws.”
VMware’s sovereign cloud initiative seeks to work with like-minded partners, who already have the mind shift with relation to sovereignty in their countries, Kishor points out.
“We have no illusions that we are the experts; our partners have more expertise, because they work with these governments day in and say out, and they understand what the local dynamics is. So I think we look for partners that already have serviced governments or regulated industries in that country, because then they understand what local certifications are required. Again, it’s not something you buy off the shelf.”
He also highlights the fact that not all VCPPs need or should become sovereign cloud providers, because of the stringent requirements imposed on providers depending on country- and region-specific constraints.
“The infrastructure needs to be operated by certified personnel, by which I mean background checks, security checks, citizenship requirements, etc. So that also becomes a big factor in looking at partners because they have to bear the overhead to be implementers.
“If you look at sovereign cloud itself, it’s a framework. Some of the guiding principles within that translated into criteria include data sovereignty and exclusive jurisdictional control over the legal entity. Then we’re talking about data access and integrity. Access means having the Tier-3 datacentres, multiple sites, access even when networks go down, and offering backup solutions.
Then there is data security and compliance with ISO 27001 or other local certification.
“Data independence and interoperability is also important, because I don’t want to be locked into you, so can I move out without breaking my bank? Can I actually change locations within your cloud’s physical locations without incurring huge migration costs? I will still need to share this data. I have to be part of the ecosystem. I can be the consumer of the data, I can be a processor of the data, or the producer of the data. But I will need to be part of the ecosystem, therefore, will your cloud help me interoperate with other clouds, subject to the appropriate data control requirements?
“Finally, there is data Innovation and analytics. Can you offer me something that I can now then start to analyse, you know, aggregate information, create the data lakes/warehouses, etc., in a secure fashion while still meeting all the legal requirements?”
“AVM Cloud knows the market very well. What we are now working towards is getting a better lens to look at the market. We now have a very tuned lens in sovereignty. And AVM Cloud is in a great position to be an important player within the data economy of Malaysia.”