Amazon Web Services opens German location to ease privacy concerns

A second location in Europe will also help improve reliability

In a move to help extinguish European and especially German privacy concerns, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has opened a location in Frankfurt.

In Europe, Amazon has up to now offered its cloud services from Ireland only. Meanwhile, there were many German businesses that indicated they wanted to use more of Amazon's services, but would not do so until Amazon had infrastructure in Germany, according to Andy Jassy, senior vice president at Amazon Web Services.

Revelations about U.S. government snooping have been a hot topic for European and especially German CIOs this year. The CIOs appear to feel that their data would be safer if stored on servers in Germany.

"The customers who are the hardest to convince to move workloads out of the country are mostly from Germany," said Gregor Petri, research director at Gartner.

German data privacy laws are more restrictive than Ireland's, making a Frankfurt location appealing for users in the country, according to Stefan Ried, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

"With the announcement Amazon sets itself up to address not only the typically higher legal compliance and security concerns of European customers, but also gets more credibility with the usually more conservative CIOs across Europe," Reid said.

One of the reasons Frankfurt was chosen was because of the network connectivity it offers, Jassy said.

It's easier to get a dedicated fiber cable from Paris to Frankfurt, than from Paris to Ireland, noted Reid.

This new regional hub comes as a number of local competitors have been trying gain a competitive advantage with their German data centers. Recently, Deutsche Telekom announced a deal with SugarCRM, highlighting that it will offer CRM (customer relationship management) services from "a highly secure private cloud complying with Germany's stringent privacy regulations."

Amazon is far from the only U.S. company that has shown an interest in Germany. Earlier this month, VMware announced it would a open a location for its hybrid cloud platform in Germany in the beginning of next year. Salesforce and Oracle have announced German locations, as well.

Amazon's launch of a second European location is about more than privacy regulations and concerns, however. It also gives users the ability to improve reliability. There are companies that want to architect applications that use different locations, according to Jassy. Longer distances mean higher latency, which affects the performance of some applications.

For example, users of Amazon's RDS (Relational Database Service) can configure a read-only replica in a different location from where the main version is hosted. In case of a major disruption, users can switch between the two to keep the database up and running. They can also be used simultaneously, to improve performance, according to Amazon.

The Frankfurt region at launch consists of two separate, so-called Availability Zones. The term refers to data centers in separate, distinct locations within a single facility or region that use independent power, cooling and physical security, and are connected via a low latency network.

The new Frankfurt facilities, however, will be slightly more expensive than the services based in Ireland. That's due to higher costs for labor, power and other overhead in Germany, market research company IDC said.

For example, a general purpose server with two virtual CPUs and 32GB of SSD storage costs US$0.154 per hour from Ireland or $0.166 per hour from Germany.

Most of Amazon's offerings are available from Frankfurt, including Elastic Compute Cloud and related services including Elastic Block Store, Virtual Private Cloud and Elastic Load Balancing. Additional services, such as Directory Service, will be available in the coming weeks.

"Amazon has made an effort to hit the ground running," Petri said.

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