Capgemini and Orange have finally announced that its Microsoft-focused sovereign cloud venture is ramping up commercial operations.

The companies this week announced that their Bleu joint venture is now engaging with ‘select French public and private organizations’ to ensure that they are ready for the migration once the first services start to go live on the platform from the end of 2024.

– Bleu

"I'm proud of the work done by the Capgemini, Orange, and Microsoft teams to realize our shared ambition of being able to offer, through Bleu, a solution that will enable clients to leverage the full power of Microsoft cloud services in a ‘cloud de confiance’," said Capgemini CEO Aiman Ezzat. “Bleu brings a unique combination of security and service benefits, including the widest range of technological innovations, enabling French organizations to accelerate their digital ambitions through the coming years.”

First announced in May 2021, Bleu aims to offer sovereign cloud services to French organizations, based on Microsoft technology. Bleu will offer Microsoft Azure and 365 cloud services, but Capgemini and Orange will control the data centers, which will be separate from the wider Azure infrastructure.

Jean Coumaros has been appointed CEO of Bleu. He was previously chief transformation officer at Capgemini, having served at the company for more than 12 years.

The companies said the coming months will be used to prepare client migration, carry out tests and pilots with customers, and ensure successful onboarding onto the Bleu platform.

The Bleu cloud will be launched from a set of ‘geographically distributed data centers’ across France.

The companies haven’t said where these are located, if these are existing facilities owned and operated by Capgemini and Orange, new facilities built for the venture, or newly-leased sites. On its website, Bleu says its data centers will use free- and river-cooling and operate with a PUE of less than 1.3.

“Together with our partner Capgemini, we are very pleased to announce today the launch of activities of our joint venture Bleu. As a leading player in the digital transformation of businesses in France, Orange is aware of the specific challenges in terms of data protection and sovereignty for critical infrastructure operators and public institutions,” added Christel Heydemann, CEO of Orange. “We are confident that Bleu will meet these needs by providing a cloud solution based on Microsoft services while being fully compliant with the standards set by French authorities in its “trusted cloud” doctrine. Bleu is now fully operational and is actively working with its future customers to prepare for their migration to the platform.”

Strict data privacy laws combined with concerns about the ability of US law enforcement to demand data held by US companies abroad means many European companies and governments are wary of US cloud operators.

But while European operators often tout their sovereignty offerings, they struggle to compete with the US operators on scale and breadth of services. The US operators are all attempting to overcome concerns over data privacy through sovereign cloud offerings, which they promise won't leave the territory it's stored in or accessed by foreign powers.

“We are proud to partner with Bleu to bring Microsoft 365 productivity solutions and Microsoft Azure services to their forthcoming ‘cloud de confiance’ platform,” said Judson Althoff, EVP and chief commercial officer at Microsoft. “With this strategic partnership, we are supporting France’s digital transformation efforts for its long-term success by enabling efficient and modern services.”

A leaked report suggests Google views its trusted partner cloud initiative as its "most important program" and believes it can corner a $100 billion market in Europe and Asia via data sovereignty-compliant clouds. Proximus and LuxConnect last year launched Clarence, a joint venture to Google Cloud services via a sovereign cloud. Google has partnered with T-Systems in Germany and Thales in France for similar initiatives.

Oracle has launched two sovereign cloud regions in Frankfurt, Germany, and Madrid, Spain. Digital Realty is the host partner for the sovereign cloud location in Madrid, and Equinix is the host partner for the region location in Frankfurt.

Amazon last year announced plans for a sovereign cloud region in Germany and hinted at further deployments in the future.

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