Late last year, the 15-year-old Safe Harbor regulations expired, leaving many European companies in the lurch. More than 4,000 companies had been enrolled in the Safe Harbor agreement, which let companies share data across international lines. Safe Harbor allowed American companies to comply with stringent European data protection laws and thus share data with European companies using the cloud.

At a DatacenterDynamics event shortly after the agreement expired, I heard from many attendees that Safe Harbor’s end was the start of a whole new set of challenges for them. Cloud computing had provided an important way to share sensitive data, and that’s no longer an option in the same way. Organizations in Europe can still use cloud computing providers, but now they have to do their homework to ensure that providers aren’t storing data in a non-compliant location.

The choices for an effective, secure data center infrastructure started to change for many of those attendees. Cloud providers, properly vetted, are still an option, but cloud providers themselves aren’t always able to guarantee data is stored in a compliant way. They are also scrambling to confront the changes Safe Harbor means for them. Meanwhile, building a secure in-house data center is now a more compelling option than it was before.

Safe harbor
– Thinkstock / Top Photo Corporation

Building the secure data center

In considering the question of how to proceed in the post-Safe Harbor world, the event attendees I talked to boiled it down to one question: Do you outsource your infrastructure and lose some control, or do you look for a solution you can build and run yourself? Two main options became present to those I talked with: the public cloud or hyperconvergence.

The consensus seemed to be that building – and simplifying – internal IT is the best bet. Infrastructure workloads have to be 24/7 these days, and in the face of security and privacy regulations, having data in-house makes a lot of sense. Many cloud providers just can’t guarantee that data will stay within certain geographic zones, and some may not even be sure where data is at any given moment.

In addition, a recent study by Evaluator Group comparing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of public cloud provider Amazon Web Services and hyperconverged infrastructure vendor SimpliVity found that SimpliVity offers a 22% to 49% savings advantage when compared to Amazon Web Services.

The hyperconverged vendor is able to provide this cost savings all while delivering enterprise performance and resiliency with the agility, elasticity, and efficiency of the public cloud. Building a data center today is a different proposition than it used to be, where more technology options mean the data center can be simpler and more efficient.

In the EU, space is often at a premium, so businesses have to find the smallest, leanest option to run the data center. Some of the conversations I heard about building data centers were about making them smaller, flexible, self-contained, and simpler to operate. Luckily, IT teams today have some strong options for building a modern data center in a really small space. Newer technologies like hyperconvergence can cut the data center footprint in half or more, help reach excellent data efficiency ratios, and significantly reduce complexity and hence staffing needs. It makes the prospect of building in-house a lot easier, especially compared with many legacy models, where tacked-on components have added a ton of waste and complexity.

European cloud providers can also use hyperconverged infrastructure as a base for their offerings. SimpliVity is particularly compelling, since data protection is built in from the beginning. The question of where data lives is easily answered for the customers who have to maintain compliance for regulatory reasons.

Once European IT teams build their modern data centers, they can spent more time innovating and staying relevant to the business, and less time keeping the lights on. They’ll also likely be protecting data better than before. The end of Safe Harbor brought some turmoil, but it’s also brought a chance to consider modern workloads carefully and really build for the future.

Stuart Gilks is a solutions architect director at Simplivity.