The Microsoft Cloud spreads to the UK with three all-new data centers

As reported by the BBC, Microsoft has set up data centers in Durham, Cardiff, and London, hoping to begin handling sensitive data that companies might want to keep within the United Kingdom. The UK Ministry of Defence and at least one National Health Service Trust are known to be joining the platform.

As a native Brit with many friends and family working in the public sector, I'm painfully aware of how outdated the government's IT systems are (many of which still rely on Windows XP, sigh). Mike Stone of the MoD reportedly approached Microsoft with the idea of opening UK data centers a couple of years ago, due to the MoD's reliance on Windows XP, outdated applications, and a desire to keep the data within the country.

The UK Ministry of Defence runs some of the most complex IT in the world, and while I doubt (and would hope) the NSA-like GCHQ itself is running on Windows XP, Azure and Office 365 should provide a boost to lower-level but still sensitive office-type scenarios within the sector. Although, the MoD notes that it won't be using Azure to store classified documents, perhaps in part due to the fact the United States government wishes to obtain the right to access Microsoft's data even when it's stored in outside sovereign territories.

Beyond the MoD, Microsoft's UK cloud will also power National Health Services in South London and Maudsley, a social care firm known as Capita, and Careflow Connect, which is a communication tool for health service workers.

Microsoft UK's Nicola Hodson hopes that Azure can also power companies in law, banking, utilities, in addition to other sectors of the UK government.

Microsoft still has a long way to go before it can tackle Amazon Web Service's market share dominance, but this latest development is doubtless a step in the right direction.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • You can be sure GCHQ knows about this already..
  • Yes. Data may be secure from all hackers but data stored in the UK is likely available to the UK government. Laws in the UK protect government rights of access not individual right to privacy. Better to keep data in EU or US data centers as they have higher standards of privacy.
  • If you honestly believe your data (wherever in the world) isn't reachable by GCHQ/NSA you're deluded. The UK not long ago, passed a law to continue allowing GCHQ to 'hack' anyone wherever even a state-body.
  • i think the days of secure data are long gone. if some gov dept' or nation needs 'your stuff' they'll get it. as the old adage goes 'it's not what you know its who you know!'
  • Hmmm the UK is in the EU! Your point is null
  • Massive news!!!
    Cloud services are where MS have been investing heavily. That trend must continues if MS is to stay relevant.
    It's great to hear that MS are first to open data centre in UK. Hopefully the move will translate into new business.
  • Will it improve Cortana in the UK ?
  • Just in time for brexit which makes many EU businesses UK a no go zone what comes to hosting data.
  • OK. Thanks for the expert analysis.
  • The point is quite valid. The UK will not be under EU data protection law and most EU business will have a requirement for that. Any data hosted in the UK will have to move, if it is azure based it will probably just go to Ireland.
    On the other hand our Data protection laws could be made more attractive to International businesses meaning microsoft could have just made a shrewd move.  We have customers who will not use some of our cloud services as they are hosted in San Diego not in the EU.
  • As the EU laws would already be in place before Brexit it seems most likely that the UK would adopt the same.
  • EU is the key. Many contracts stipulate explicitly that data must be kept in EU.
  • ​In the real world the point is not valid at all. How much work will it take to deconstruct all of those agreements the the UK currently has with the EU? You'll find most of them will either stay as they are or take a long time to change significantly. The UK is one of the biggest markets in Europe, for Azure and Office, Germany already has their own datacenters so this will be mostly for UK customers.
  • Many believe that the UK will go for a hybrid approach, so maintain harmonisation with both EU & US legislation, so both entities could continue to host regional data.
  • We have a data protection act within our country that is in accordance with overall EU law. I don't see why we would change it.
  • EU laws are very restrictive. The UK will be more attractive to the world if we ever leave the EU because our laws are better.
  • You should pay attention to your readers young Devine. They often demonstrate far more insight than you staff. Brexit fundamentality changes the business reality for cloud services operating here. Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • Like most people here he's probably learnt that vyhr just posts in soundbites without any actual analysis or facts to back them up.
  • As the EU collapses (Irexit is looming) it will become less and less of an issue.
  • Frau Merkel and the EU will assure Brexit is just the beginning.
  • Always happy to help.
  • US will still prey on data... So what's the benefit?
  • One benefit that hasn't been highlighted is performance. If your data and web apps are hosted in the UK and your office is in the UK then you get faster access to it all instead of it coming from thousands of miles away.
  • How can i get my stuff on UK servers? 
  • I just had a check to see if I could deploy new resources to UK in Azure but can't see it listed yet.
  • Nvmd figured it out lol
  • Microsoft have pioneered the cloud. They lead the way in this sector also. Good to hear UK is part of its plans.
  • They don't lead the sector. Amazon Web Services have 30% share to Microsoft's 11%
  • Why are you comparing sold market share???? I was talking about technology and amount of servers available. As well as being leagues ahead in cloud computing. Also you know the market share included for MS does not include its own servers it used itself. Like the 300,000 servers they are adding to Xbox live. Will jot be included in the market share. Because they are not sold. So yes while stupid, MS are definitely leading the way in technology and amount of servers with Cloud.
  • Pretty big win for Microsoft. Still worrying about the US government still wanting access to all of their data. I don't think they'll get it personally but it could set a worrying precedent.
  • Where did you get the image? I want it for my desktop background
  • A quick TinEye reverse image search seems to show the original came from -
  • Will the UK actually become a reckon for many services in the Azure Portal, or is this something that requires direct contact with MS to specifically request UK hosting? Pretty sure they've done something like that in the past but could be wrong