Proximus and LuxConnect have launched a joint venture to offer Google Cloud services via a sovereign cloud.

Known as Clarence, the venture aims to offer a "disconnected sovereign cloud solution to governments, regulated companies, international organizations and enterprises with sensitive data in Europe."

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– Google Maps

Belgian IT firm Proximus Group first announced a five-year deal to offer sovereign cloud services in Europe based on Google technology back in March 2023.

The deal will see Proximus use Google’s Distributed Cloud Hosted solution out of Proximus’ and LuxConnect’s facilities in Belgium and Luxembourg.

Proximus operates data centers in the Evere and Machelen areas of Brussels in Belgium. LuxConnect, a data center operator owned by the Luxembourg state, operates data center campuses in Bissen and Bettembourg in Luxembourg.

“Clarence’s core mission is to offer a state-of-the-art disconnected sovereign cloud solution. Based on Google Cloud technology, this unique proposition guarantees the confidentiality and security of the most sensitive information, giving control over data, and offering total autonomy of operation. Clarence respects the highest ethical standards in data protection, confidentiality, transparency, and regulatory compliance,” said Paul Konsbruck, CEO of LuxConnect.

Gérard Hoffmann, CEO of Proximus Luxembourg, added: “Our two founding companies bring complementary expertise to this unique collaboration. Proximus has solid experience in delivering managed services to regulated companies in the financial sector, in full compliance with European regulations. LuxConnect brings its expertise in highly secure, state-of-the-art hosting to the table. Our common goal is to enable our customers to benefit from a trusted solution on the Luxembourg market."

Announced in October 2021, Google’s Distributed Cloud Hosted solution provides on-premise options to public and private entities with strong data residency, security, and/or privacy requirements.

Cloud Hosted does not require connectivity to Google Cloud at any time to manage infrastructure, services, APIs, or tooling and uses a local control plane provided by Anthos for operations. Google has partnered with T-Systems in Germany, Thales in France for similar initiatives.

Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, posted on X (formerly Twitter) this week: “We launched the Google distributed cloud – a joint venture by LuxConnect and Proximus and a close collaboration between Luxembourg 🇱🇺 and Belgium.”

He continued: “It is the first time that Google Cloud will be available in a disconnected way to both public and private clients, in Europe and beyond. It ensures that we maintain control over our data and over our digital infrastructure, empowering us to stay true to our national and European values, safeguard our data privacy, and strengthen our digital sovereignty.”

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.

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.

Orange and Capgemini launched France-based cloud company Bleu in 2021 to sell Microsoft Azure services from local data centers.

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 this week announced plans for a sovereign cloud region in Germany, and hinted at further deployments in the future.