Friday. The press release for German Microsoft Partner Conference, which took place this week, was just delivered to my e-mail inbox. At this conference, the focus was on the cloud and the associated business models and revenue opportunities for Microsoft Partners. In this regard it was observed – not surprisingly – that: “…the important aspect here is taking measures to build confidence in the cloud.”
Reading the press release, I think back to last week. Microsoft had sent an invitation to an analyst workshop on the topic: ‘Trusted Cloud: Opportunities and Trust in the Cloud.’ I attended it for two reasons: For one, I wanted to bring myself up to date on the topic of Data Protection and Security. For the other, and much more pertinently, I was interested in Microsoft’s stand on the statement made by Christian Illek, the Managing Director of Microsoft Germany, regarding a German data center.
To put it briefly: Microsoft’s activities on the issues of data protection and security have not yielded anything new, even if Microsoft would like to give a different impression, both in discussions with me as well as at its Partner Conference. Microsoft’s data protection efforts, and thus the EU standard contractual clauses or EU Model Clauses for customers of cloud services, were confirmed in April this year by the EU’s highest data protection authorities. The solution here is the so-called contract data processing approach, which attorney Jan Schneider described in a simple and clear manner in a lecture back in 2011, and to which I would like to refer again. The words of Hannes Oenning, the person responsible for Group Data Protection at Bertelsmann AG, also occurred to me. He expressed exactly what I was thinking at that moment at a previous Microsoft event on this topic: Microsoft supplies exactly what it wants to make available as a provider. And there is nothing more to add to this day.
The more exciting question for me, about a dedicated German Microsoft data center, was answered on that day – as one might expect – with “we are currently exploring the idea.” This is interesting, especially when I look at the announcement from salesforce.com that it will be starting up a German data center in partnership with Deutsche Telekom in 2015. It could be argued, of course, that these two companies cannot be compared with each other because of their different product portfolios and distribution structure, in particular their partner bases. But if a customer prefers a provider that has a (dedicated) German data center over another who is unable to provide this, then so be it. Regardless of what this company offers and how it is set up. Nor does it matter whether the location issue is resolved by the previously mentioned EU standard contractual clauses and contract data processing or whether it is more an emotionally-laden issue for the customer.
Microsoft was able to win many customers for its cloud services in recent years. Just like the other providers in this environment. But at some point, the providers will have to ask themselves how they can generate new customer prospects. And precisely for cloud services, the location of a data center is and always will be an important criterion. Salesforce.com understands this.
Apart from that, I have believed for years that Germany as a location should not be regarded as a challenge, but as an advantage. The provider who wins (critical) customers in Germany can use this to its own advantage in other countries. And I would not be surprised if salesforce.com does exactly that in the coming year.
Back to the Partner Conference. In his keynote speech, Illek spoke of “being even better able to identify, understand and offer solutions for our customers’ requirements in the digital transformation.” Without a doubt, customers demand a German data center. It would be conceivable to offer a solution using the partners. Surely this would be of interest for some partners. But is that what the customer really wants? Which is why I ask myself: “The customer is always right. Isn´t he?”