The growing interest by governments in protecting sovereign interests through various data sovereignty schemes can impact how organisations store, process, use, analyse and share data in different jurisdictions.
In Indonesia, for example, public sector agencies can only store and process personal data in the country, while private firms in regulated industries such as banking and financial services are bounded by sectoral rules.
That has led technology suppliers like VMware to double down on providing sovereign cloud capabilities in the region, including in Indonesia and Thailand.
“Indonesia has strong government statements with regards to sovereignty, and that’s giving organisations, starting with the government, the confidence to invest and take advantage of sovereign cloud because there’s certainty of legislation,” said Paul Simos, VMware’s vice-president and managing director of Southeast Asia and Korea.
“And Thailand, as a market coming out of Covid-19, is keen to take advantage of cloud, which happens to be sovereign, and our partners are starting to see a good inflow of customers that want to come onboard to take advantage of cloud capabilities,” he added.
Another driver of sovereign cloud demand in the region, going by the conversations that Simos has had with customers, has been the need to de-risk and maintain business continuity in an uncertain and volatile world.
“There’s an overarching question post-pandemic about how I can take advantage of cloud as an operating model, but do it in a sovereign and contained way,” said Simos. “So, if we ever end up in another global situation, and our country for whatever reason becomes isolated, then I’m at least able to continue running my business, because I know everything that I rely on is within the borders of my country.”
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VMware’s Sovereign Cloud programme, which debuted in October 2021, was open to partners in Asia-Pacific about a year ago. So far, 19 VMware partners in the region, including AIS Business and Cloud HM in Thailand, and Lintasarta in Indonesia, are on the programme.
While public cloud suppliers such as Oracle and Microsoft have the ability to host sensitive workloads in sovereign cloud regions in specific jurisdictions, ensuring data stays within a jurisdiction and can only be assessed in the same jurisdiction, VMware’s sovereign cloud partners can achieve similar outcomes by using the VMware Cloud Foundation integrated software stack to host protected workloads.
“So, if you’re running VMware workloads on-premise and want to take advantage of a sovereign cloud for regulated workloads, you’d be moving them from a VMware platform to another VMware platform,” said Simos, adding that Thailand’s Cloud HM is also delivering sovereign platform capabilities like container management based on VMware Tanzu.
But could organisations that run workloads on sovereign cloud services be missing out on the ecosystem of cloud applications in public cloud marketplaces?
To that, Simos said some partners have started engaging VMware on connecting sovereign cloud services to public cloud marketplaces, adding, though, that organisations that run sensitive workloads on a sovereign cloud might not necessarily want to do that due to security and data governance risks.
On whether organisations are also modernising applications that are being moved to sovereign cloud services, Simos said that is usually the next step for customers in their application journey.
“We see the bulk of the trend being ‘let’s migrate the workloads’, and a lot of that is being driven by the desire to demonstrate movement to cloud,” he said. “Then, the architectural discussion around applications generally starts to move.
“Some customers have assumed that moving to cloud makes their applications fully cloud-aware, but they may not necessarily get the full benefit of cloud because they’ve still got a legacy application,” said Simos. “So, I think customers will continue to go through that application assessment phase.”
Besides VMware, Microsoft is also working with organisations in the region on sovereign cloud services. In February 2022, Singapore’s Home Team Science and Technology Agency teamed up with Microsoft to develop a sovereign cloud built on the latter’s Azure platform to drive digital transformation in the city-state’s law enforcement and emergency services agencies.