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Introducing the Cloudflare Data Localization Suite


7 min read

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Today we’re excited to announce the Cloudflare Data Localization Suite, which helps businesses get the performance and security benefits of Cloudflare’s global network, while making it easy to set rules and controls at the edge about where their data is stored and protected.

The Data Localization Suite is available now as an add-on for Enterprise customers.

Cloudflare’s network is private and compliant by design. Preserving end-user privacy is core to our mission of helping to build a better Internet; we’ve never sold personal data about customers or end users of our network. We comply with laws like GDPR and maintain certifications such as ISO-27001.

Today, we're announcing tools that make it simple for our customers to build the same rigor into their own applications. In this post, I'll explain the different types of data that we process and how the Data Localization Suite keeps this data local.

We’ll also talk about how Cloudflare makes it possible to build applications that comply with data locality laws, while remaining fast, secure and scalable.

Why keep data local?

Cloudflare's customers have increasing desire or face legal requirements for data locality: they want to control the geographic location where their data is handled. Many categories of data that our customers process (including healthcare, legal, or financial data) may be subject to obligations that specify the data be stored or processed in a specific location. The preference or requirement for data localization is growing across jurisdictions such as the EU, India, and Brazil; over time, we expect more customers in more places will be expected to keep data local.

Although “data locality” sounds like a simple concept, our conversations with Cloudflare customers make clear that there are a number of unique challenges they face in the attempt to move toward this goal.  The availability of information on their Internet properties will remain global--they don’t want to limit access to their websites to local jurisdictions--but they want to make sure data stays local. Variously, they are trying to figure out:

  • How do I build local requirements into my global online operations?
  • How do I make sure unencrypted traffic is only available locally?
  • How do I make sure personal data is handled according to localization obligations?
  • How do I make sure my applications only store data in certain locations?

The Cloudflare Data Localization Suite attempts to respond to these questions.

Until now, customers who wanted to localize their data had to choose to restrict their application to one data center, or to one cloud provider's region. This is a fragile approach, fraught with performance, reliability, and security challenges. Cloudflare is creating a new paradigm: customers should be able to get the performance and security benefits of our global network, while effortlessly keeping their data local.

Encryption is the backbone of privacy

Before we go into data locality, we should discuss encryption. Privacy isn't possible without strong encryption; otherwise, anyone could snoop your customers' data, regardless of where it's stored.

Data is often described as being "in transit" and "at rest". It's critically important that both are encrypted. Data "in transit" refers to just that—data while it's moving about on the wire, whether a local network or the public Internet. "At rest" generally means stored on a disk somewhere, whether a spinning HDD or a modern SSD.

In transit, Cloudflare can enforce that all traffic to end-users uses modern TLS and gets the highest level of encryption possible. We can also enforce that all traffic back to customers' origin servers is always encrypted. Communication between all our edge and core data centers is always encrypted.

Cloudflare encrypts all of the data we handle at rest, usually with disk-level encryption. From cached files on our edge network, to configuration state in databases in our core data centers—every byte is encrypted at rest.

Control where TLS private keys can be accessed

Given the importance of encryption, one of the most sensitive pieces of data that our customers trust us to protect are their cryptographic keys, which enable data to be decrypted. Cloudflare offers two ways for customers to ensure that their private keys are only accessible in locations they specify.

Keyless SSL allows a customer to store and manage their own SSL private keys for use with Cloudflare on any external infrastructure of their choosing. Customers can use a variety of systems for their keystore, including hardware security modules (“HSMs”), virtual servers, and hardware running Unix/Linux and Windows that is housed in environments customers control. Cloudflare never has access to the private key with Keyless SSL.

Geo Key Manager gives customers granular control over which locations should store their keys. For example, a customer can choose for the private keys required for inspection of traffic to only be accessible inside data centers located in the European Union.

Manage where HTTPS requests and responses are inspected

In order to deploy our WAF, or detect malicious bot traffic, Cloudflare must terminate TLS in our edge data centers and inspect HTTPS request and response payloads.

Regional Services gives organizations control over where their traffic is inspected. With Regional Services enabled, traffic is ingested on Cloudflare’s global Anycast network at the location closest to the client, where we can provide L3 and L4 DDoS protection. Instead of being inspected at the HTTP level at that data center, this traffic is securely transmitted to Cloudflare data centers inside the region selected by the customer and handled there.

Control the logs and analytics generated by your traffic

In addition to making our customers' infrastructure and teams faster, more secure, and more reliable, we also provide insights into what our services do, and how customers can make better use of them. We gather metadata about the traffic that goes through our edge data centers, and use this to improve the operation of our own network: for example, by crafting WAF rules to block the latest attacks, or by developing machine learning models to detect malicious bots. We also make this data available to our customers in the form of logs and analytics.

This only requires a subset of the metadata to be processed in our core data centers in the US/EU. This data contains information about how many requests were served, how much data was sent, how long requests took, and other information that is essential for the operation of our network.

With Edge Log Delivery, customers can send logs directly from the edge to their partner of choice—for example, an Azure storage bucket in their preferred region, or an instance of Splunk that runs in an on-premise data center. With this option, customers can still get their complete logs in their preferred region, without these logs first flowing through either of our US or EU core data centers.

Edge Log Delivery is in early beta for Enterprise customers today—please visit our product page for more information.

Ultimately, we are working towards providing customers full control over where their metadata is stored, and for how long. In the coming year, we plan to allow customers to be able to choose exactly which fields are stored, and for how long, and in which location.

Building location-aware applications from the ground up

So far, we've discussed how Cloudflare's products can offer global performance and security solutions for our customers, while keeping their existing keys, application data, and metadata local.

But we know that customers are also struggling to use existing, traditional cloud systems to manage their data locality needs. Existing platforms may allow code or data to be deployed to a specific region, but having copies of applications in each region, and managing state across each of them, can be challenging at best (or impossible at worst).

The ultimate promise of serverless has been to allow any developer to say “I don’t care where my code runs, just make it scale.” Increasingly, another promise will need to be “I do care where my code runs, and I need more control to satisfy my compliance department.” Cloudflare Workers allows you the best of both worlds, with instant scaling, locations that span more than 100 countries around the world, and the granularity to choose exactly what you need.

We are announcing a major improvement that lets customers control where their applications store data: Workers Durable Objects will support Jurisdiction Restrictions.  Durable Objects provide globally consistent state and coordination to serverless applications running on the Cloudflare Workers platform. Jurisdiction Restrictions will make it possible for users to ensure that their Durable Objects do not store data or run outside of a given jurisdiction—making it trivially simple to build applications that combine global performance with local compliance. With automatic migration of Durable Objects, adapting to new rules will be as simple as adding a tag to a set of Durable Objects.

Building for the long haul

The data localization landscape is constantly evolving. Since we began working on the Data Localization Suite, the European Data Protection Board has released new guidance about how data may be transferred between the EU and the US. And we know this is just the beginning -- over time, more regions and more industries will have data localization requirements.

At Cloudflare, we stay on top of the latest developments around data protection so our customers don’t have to. The Data Localization Suite gives our customers the tools to set rules and controls at the edge about where their data is stored and protected, while taking advantage of our global network.

To learn more, please visit our Privacy and Compliance Week page.

We protect entire corporate networks, help customers build Internet-scale applications efficiently, accelerate any website or Internet application, ward off DDoS attacks, keep hackers at bay, and can help you on your journey to Zero Trust.

Visit from any device to get started with our free app that makes your Internet faster and safer.

To learn more about our mission to help build a better Internet, start here. If you're looking for a new career direction, check out our open positions.
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