Kathy Gibson is at VMware Explore in Barcelona – As VMware promotes the importance of a sovereign cloud, South African providers have been at the forefront of giving their customers just this.

Joe Baguley, vice-president and chief technology officer: EMEA VMware, explains that VMware’s Verified Cloud Provider Programme (VCPP) partners have been operating de facto sovereign clouds for some time.

“So we have hundreds of clouds operating in Africa already,” he says. “But what customers are looking for is the assurance that these are truly sovereign clouds.”

Data sovereignty has long been an issue for organisations like governments, banks or companies handling issues of national importance. But, as Baguley points out, there is a growing realisation that sovereignty needs to extend beyond the data.

While these service providers run their own cloud infrastructures, and hold both data and workloads in-country, there is a move now to certify them as part of the sovereign cloud initiative, Baguley adds.

“The sovereign cloud initiative is essentially a set of best practices that allows service providers to learn from us and from others how to build a more sovereign cloud.

“And we can give assurances around that.”

These local sovereign clouds are able to offer VMware solutions as a software as a service (SaaS), he says.

“A lot of the hyperscalers talk about data sovereignty, but we are starting to see some pushback from customers about those claims.

“For instance, your data may be held locally – but what about the metadata, which is the data about your data? Chances are this is held offshore,” Baguley points out.

“For a lot of people, this has highlighted the blurred lines between data sovereignty and cloud sovereignty. We need there to be a clear separation.”

In addition, many hyperscalers are international companies and thus subject to the laws of those countries which govern data.

Cloud sovereignty is not yet demanded by most countries’ laws, he adds. “But as an industry we try to regulate ourselves so that regulators can simply adopt our policies.

“That is why, at VMware, we try to define very clearly what sovereignty is.”