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What Is Sovereign Cloud?

Sovereign cloud refers to a cloud computing service that operates in compliance with the laws of a specific country. Because these laws vary across countries and jurisdictions, there is no single accepted definition of sovereign cloud. A sovereign cloud generally provides data access that complies with local data privacy laws and protects against foreign access to data (including metadata).

A sovereign cloud approach may include data residency (which ensures that data is located within the country, on sovereign soil), but this is not a requirement. Instead, sovereign cloud deals with data sovereignty, meaning that data is subject to the privacy laws and governance structures in the nation where the data is collected (which may or may not dictate data residency).

About 157 countries have enacted data protection and sovereignty laws of some kind. Sovereign cloud and data sovereignty are especially important in Europe because of European Union (EU) regulations. European organizations are driving demand for sovereign cloud solutions: 84 percent of organizations surveyed by Accenture said that EU regulations have had a moderate to large impact on their data handling.

The type of data also matters when it comes to sovereign cloud and data handling. Data from highly regulated industries, such as government, healthcare and financial services, is often subject to more stringent regulations than other data.

How Does Sovereign Cloud Work?

Sovereign cloud does not refer to a specific type of cloud architecture. Rather, it denotes a cloud run by a type of service provider that proves compliance via monitoring and assessment of its services, access permissions, and data movement.

A typical sovereign cloud includes private clouds that reside entirely within sovereign borders to store and process sensitive, confidential or restricted data. Depending on regulations, less sensitive public data may be stored and processed in a public cloud run by a global hyperscale cloud provider to take advantage of best-in-class cloud platforms and technologies. For use cases that require the scale and computing power offered by hyperscalers, but still include sensitive data (such as artificial intelligence and machine learning), data can be encrypted and anonymized before being sent to a public cloud.

In addition to data residency, sovereign clouds use various security measures to protect data, including:

  • Data encryption: Data that is sent outside sovereign borders may be encrypted for additional protection.
  • Access controls: Data from highly regulated industries such as healthcare may be sent over segregated private networks that limit access strictly to authorized parties.
  • Security monitoring and EDR/XDR: Data in sovereign clouds is continuously monitored to detect and respond to threats and ensure the security and integrity of applications.
  • Micro-segmentation and Zero Trust: These security measures ensure that workloads are unable to communicate with each other unless specifically authorized.

However, a sovereign cloud is architected, it must demonstrate compliance regularly (and ideally on an ongoing basis) in order to ensure data sovereignty.

Sovereign Cloud Challenges

The stringent requirements of sovereign cloud pose several challenges to organizations that need to implement them. These include:

  • Flexible nature of clouds: Due to their inherent virtualized and flexible nature, clouds often operate globally, across borders and legal jurisdictions. This makes it a challenge to control where data is located and how it is accessed.
  • U.S. dominance among global hyperscalers: The majority of hyperscale cloud providers are U.S.-based and subject to U.S. laws, which may conflict with local data laws. Sovereign cloud aims to reduce reliance on these global providers.

Cost: Some organizations try to meet legal and regulatory requirements by building their own sovereign cloud solution, which can quickly become costly. Organizations avoid this by finding a sovereign cloud provider that meets their regulatory needs.

Sovereign Cloud Benefits

Working with a sovereign cloud provider to establish a sovereign cloud offers a number of benefits, including:

  • Data control: Organizations that successfully implement a sovereign cloud enjoy control over their data, including where it is stored, where it flows, and who has access to it. Data is subject to the exclusive control and authority of the nation state where the data was collected. This means that a sovereign cloud prevents compelled access by foreign authorities, which could violate data privacy laws.
  • Regulatory compliance: The use of a sovereign cloud provider lets organizations rest assured that they are in compliance with the laws and regulations for their country and their industry. The best sovereign cloud providers demonstrate compliance on an ongoing basis.
  • Security: To prevent data breaches, sovereign clouds are generally secure, protecting data and workloads against rapidly changing attack vectors. Security controls are audited to ensure a high level of security.
  • Resilience: To comply with regulations, sovereign cloud ensures high availability, minimizing disruption and boosting business resilience.

Future-proofing: Data privacy regulations and geopolitical factors are always changing, and systems built to comply with them may quickly become outdated. A sovereign cloud provider helps ensure compliance in the face of a changing landscape.

How VMware Can Help

Keep up with changing data privacy requirements with VMware infrastructure and security. Access a network of trusted partners that commit to designing and operating cloud solutions based on modern, software-defined architectures that embody key principles and best practices outlined in the VMware Sovereign Cloud framework.

Explore VMware sovereign cloud solutions

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