Seems like every week, we have a major cloud vendor opening up a new data center or a new region (cluster of data centers) somewhere in the world. Just last week, Apple opened one in China and announced they would be opening another in Denmark in 2019.
Meanwhile Google unveiled a London region last week, and announced plans for three others in Frankfurt, the Netherlands, and Finland.
In China, there a host of legal requirements for data center operators, the latest of which require cloud companies to store user data in-country. China is Apple’s second largest market after the U.S., so it probably wanted a presence on the ground anyway. The legal and regulatory requirements only exacerbated that need.
The British of course voted to exit the EU in the Brexit vote last year, and while there is still much uncertainty about how that will play out, when the Brits leave the EU, it could mean that cloud vendors like Google will need to have a presence in-country. Simply having servers somewhere in the EU might not be enough.
Google and Apple are hardly alone in their quest for more regions. AWS announced it was opening three data centers in Sweden last April. In May, Microsoft announced it would be opening two in Africa.
Think globally, act locally
All of this comes against a backdrop of regulatory requirements around data sovereignty and adherence to a plethora of local and regional laws, which makes choosing a cloud provider a complicated matter, and makes it ever more necessary for cloud providers to offer local options.
There’s also the matter of moving applications and content as close as possible to the users who will be accessing it. This is something that media companies have known for years and have made use of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) like Akamai, Cloudflare, and Fastly.
Netflix is constantly near the top of internet bandwidth usage. In fact, last year it consumed 37 percent of all internet bandwidth in the U.S., according to data from Sandvine, a firm that has been tracking this data for years. Netflix has known for for a long time that the only way to deliver that much content without latency and with reduced bandwidth requirements is to bring delivery as close to the user as possible.
Of course not everyone needs a local presence, and the public cloud providers give their customers options. If they let the cloud provider move the data wherever it makes sense, then the cost is lower. If the customer has more stringent requirements for the data to remain locally for whatever reason, then they could charge more. It’s all a trade-off.
But as the public cloud continues to grow, it requires ever more data centers. The big guys know how to scale. You don’t have to worry about them, they’ll build more if they need it, but they may be building for more reasons than pure expansion requirements.
Photo: Oregon State University on Flickr. Used under CC by 2.0 license