Microsoft has stolen a march on Amazon in the cloud computing market by opening up three huge data centres in the UK as the tech giants battle it out to store highly sensitive information from both private and public sector organisations.
The move has been triggered in part by continued unrest over the transfer of data between Europe and the US following the death of the Safe Harbour agreement and the ongoing debacle over its successor, Privacy Shield.
There is also a looming court case which threatens so-called standard contractual clauses (SCCs) – which are used by 80% of firms transferring data – sparking fears that nearly $250bn (£188bn) worth of trade between the US and EU is under threat.
Microsoft has now opened facilities in London, Durham and Cardiff. a move which it hopes will enable it to chip away at Amazon’s dominance of cloud storage market. According to figures from Statistica released last year, worldwide spending on public cloud services will grow at nearly 20% a year to be worth more than $141bn in 2019.
Microsoft will now ramp up the promotion of its online services – such as Azure, which is also used as an advertising platform, and Office 365 – to businesses, the public sector and to any organisations working with sensitive data.
It has already signed up the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, outsourcing giant Capita, and healthcare firm Careflow Connect.
The move will affect how the MoD operates on a day to day basis, according to MoD chief information officer Brigadier Mike Stone. He said: “We can now work on documents collaboratively and understand more about the ways we are working – we will be able to see how much time teams are spending in meetings, on email and on the phone.”
Microsoft UK’s marketing executive Nicola Hodson added: “We’re expecting that legal services, banking utilities and some of those more regulated sectors as well as the public sector will now find ways to benefit from the cloud.”
Amazon does not offer an equivalent to Office 365, but its Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud computing division remains more popular than Azure. Although Amazon revealed plans to build UK data centres last year, it has yet to confirm when they will open. In 2015, AWS generated $7.9bn in revenue for the company.
AWS accounted for about 31% of the global cloud infrastructure service market between April and June, according to Synergy Research. In contrast, Microsoft had an 11% share.
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