Microsoft capitulates, announces German data centres

Clouds in Europe won't rain data onto US spies

Call it “safe harbour” in action: Microsoft has announced it's going to go along with Germany's data privacy concerns and start hosting Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics CRM Online in that country.

The decision comes hard on the heels of the company's decision to spin up some rust in the UK, with the Ministry of Defence as an anchor customer.

In its announcement, Redmond also says German customers will have data access controlled by Deutsche Telekom, acting as local data trustee.

The German operator's T-Systems subsidiary will handle the data trustee functions, managing all access to customer data in the Microsoft data centres. “Microsoft will not be able to access this data without the permission of customers or the data trustee, and if permission is granted by the data trustee, will only do so under its supervision”, the announcement states.

Since Microsoft won't be in charge of the data, even an unfavourable decision in its US court case (in which the Feds want access to e-mails stored in Ireland) won't expose German customer data to American courts or law enforcement.

To ensure business continuity, the company says it will spin up machines in two regions, Magdeburg and Frankfurt, and data will be exchanged between the two locations over a private network, rather than the public Internet (so as not to risk data being routed outside Germany for any reason).

The service will follow German data handling regulations, Microsoft says, and customers will be able to view “how and where data is processed”.

In a paywalled story, the Financial Times says customers will have to pay a premium to have their data guarded by the trustee. ®

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