Microsoft has partnered with T-Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, to offer Azure cloud services in Germany, CEO Satya Nadella said today, after announcing a major expansion in the UK on Tuesday. Two new data center regions, located in Magdeburg and Frankfurt am Main, will start delivering Azure, Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online to the country sometime during the second half of 2016.
"Our new datacenter regions in Germany, operated in partnership with Deutsche Telekom, will not only spur local innovation and growth, but offer customers choice and trust in how their data is handled and where it is stored," said Nadella in a statement. Under the arrangement, T-Systems will control access to customer information stored on cloud servers, laying to rest data residency concerns for the region's customers.
Microsoft will not be able to access the data without permission from customers or T-Systems. Even if permission is given, T-Systems will supervise the proceedings. "This will help us meet growing demand for Microsoft cloud services in Germany, and across Europe, by providing an innovative, scalable and consistent cloud computing platform combined with a German data trustee model," said Alex Stüger, area vice president for Microsoft Germany.
"Microsoft is pioneering a new, unique solution for customers in Germany and Europe," Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom, said in a statement. "Now, customers who want local control of their data combined with Microsoft's cloud services have a new option, and I anticipate it will be rapidly adopted."
Those assurances aside, the companies are also investing in tight security. The data centers will feature biometric scanning, smart cards and other physical access controls. Data will be safeguarded with Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) encryption based on German certificates and multifactor authentication. A private network will exchange data between the two German Azure regions to ensure that data stays within the country.
In a post-Snowden world, data residency has become a chief concern for businesses and individuals that value their privacy.
For Microsoft, championing cloud privacy has landed the company in court. The company is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the U.S. government to prevent the Department of Justice from obtaining the contents of emails stored on servers located in an Irish data center on the grounds that the agency is overstepping its jurisdictional boundaries. Several trade groups, technology giants, media companies and even the Irish government have sided with Microsoft on the issue.
With this new cloud oversight model, Microsoft is signaling to non-U.S. customers that the company is adhering to regional data privacy rules.
"These new regions will adhere to the same service and quality standards of all Microsoft Cloud regions," wrote Doug Hauger, general manager of Microsoft National Cloud Programs, in a Nov. 11 blog post. "In addition, the services will feature the same industry-leading levels of security, privacy and control, compliance, and transparency that define the Microsoft trusted cloud. Microsoft is committed to innovating to meet the needs of its customers, and understands that customers and partners will only choose technology they trust."