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Salesforce.com announces UK data centre in public sector push

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3rd May 2013
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It's been a long time coming, but Salesforce.com has finally broken ground on its first European data centre - and it's the allure of the UK public sector that's finally won the day it seems. 

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff first floated the idea of having a data centre in Europe two years ago and since then a decision on who to partner with for such a venture has been tantalisingly 'just around the corner'. 

Many had predicted that the firm would work with BT on such an arrangement, but in the event Salesforce.com has stuck with an existing relationship with NTT - which runs Salesforce.com's centre in Japan - and decided to replicate the arrangement in Europe. 

"We looked at several vendors," said Steve Garnett, chairman of Salesforce.com in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).  “We looked at it purely from the point of view of who was the best in Europe."
Damian Skendrovic, NTT Europe’s vice president of Cloud services added: “We got the most ticks in the boxes and I think one of the things that stood out was our commitment to delivering [services with] 100 per cent renewable energy.”
Government ambitions
The new centre - to be based in Slough - will also open doors in the UK public sector. Salesforce.com has made no secret of its ambitions to push into the government space and is already part of the G-Cloud programme. 
"As a market, Europe is just on fire for us at the moment," said Garnett. “The UK Government is coming alive now around G-Cloud and multi-tenant architecture. This really puts an extra seal for us on the 50% of the UK market that we don’t currently address.”
"A lot of customers place their data with us because they believe that we have security and robustness way in excess of anything that they have for themselves. So for commercial customers, the lack of a European data centre has not been an issue.
"But for public sector customers, there are certain types of data that cannot go outside of the European Union, even though we can argue to the Nth degree from a security point of view. That has limited our ability to break into providing our public Cloud services to the UK government."
There are actually some commercial customers who were pretty keen to see the European data centre up and running as well. "We requested them to have a European data centre," confirmed Jeroen Tas, CIO at electronics giant Philips. "Philips requests explicitly to have a European data centre, because the US government can subpoena your data.”So we are very happy with this announcement."
But it's probably more significant that the official announcement of the European centre was accompanied by a supporting statement from Stephen Kelly, COO of the UK government, who said: “We welcome the decision by Salesforce.com to locate its European data centre in the UK. This significant development further endorses the UK as one of the world's greatest technology centres. 
"The UK is in a strong position to support fast-growing international companies such as Salesforce.com in delivering innovative social, mobile and Cloud services to customers here and globally.”
Two years ago CEO Benioff caused a stir when, following a meeting with Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, he laid into the UK government's then formative Cloud thinking which was shaping up to be heavily 'build your own private Cloud' rather than the public Cloud vision in place today. 
"The UK is way behind in this – and way too much into virtualisation and the G-Cloud, which is a big virtual machine that has not been executed well. Too much cost has gone into running too many data centres," he said at the time, but subsequently praised the shift towards a public Cloud strategy. 
These days Garnett says he is spending a great deal of time with the Cabinet Office team these days discussing public Cloud. Garnett of course is an Oracle alumni as is government COO Kelly - who used to sell into the public sector on Oracle's behalf back in the 1990s.
The reaction 
The data centre announcement was made at the London leg of Salesforce.com's Customer Company Tour in Docklands this week where one of the keynote speakers was Denise McDonagh, head of the G-Cloud programme, who fielded questions from an audience some three times the size of a similar public sector focused session at the equivalent event last year. 
McDonagh recalled that the original 'build your own Cloud' thinking had been at the forefront of initial thinking, followed by a period of "analysis paralysis". She added: ""A lot of people in government are still concerned about public cloud. The Cabinet Office welcomes the fact that Salesforce is opening up."
In the same session, Claire Myerson, CIO at charity Nuffield Health which performs operations on behalf of the NHS among other activities, said the new data centre will make life easier.
"It is important to my customers," she said. "Data residency in the UK is a big issue. And frankly Oracle and Microsoft have been stealing business away from Salesforce.com on the data residency issue. The European data centre will make it easier for those of us [in the public sector] to make the case for Cloud Computing."
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