CloudOps has been helping companies leverage the power of cloud services for nearly as long as cloud services have been around. We were early adopters and evangelists of AWS and open source cloud technologies such as OpenStack, CloudStack and Docker. We understood the value of API-driven, self-service scalable infrastructure, and so did our customers. However, as the industry matured, we kept getting the same question: can I do this in Canada?
For many years the answer was a resounding “no”. And so we built cloud.ca, a regional IaaS and leading contender in the next wave of cloud computing in Canada.
The idea of a regional cloud is not new. For a long time, we have been forecasting a model where clouds would be like airlines - regional-driven in a global market. We’ve answered the question many times and have now distilled the essence to three, immovable facts:
- The speed of light is not getting any faster
- Geo-political borders are not moving
- People want choice
- Speed of light
This is perhaps a simple argument, but for this reason it is often overlooked. If your services are in Canada, and your customers are in Canada, why would you want your customers to access data hundreds or thousands of kilometers away? Bandwidth is faster than it used to be, but the Internet is also more complex, and there are simply no good reasons to add significant lag into your user experience when you have alternatives. A regional cloud can provide latencies of 5 to 10 milliseconds, while a round-trip south of the border can mean 5 to 8 times longer (10 to 30 ms on the east coast to 70 to 80 ms on the west coast).
- Geo-political borders
The obvious industries with strict data residency requirements are healthcare, financial services, legal services and the public sector. Some of these industries have stringent regulations, some are more risk averse and have strong preferences. We have certainly seen companies in these industries reach out to us to use cloud services in Canada. In addition, even though governments can be a little slower to adopt new technologies, they can be a large driver of business and innovations. Government-driven regional clouds have been discussed in Utah and Michigan, and we hope Canada will follow suit and develop guidelines as well.
But the list of customers who appreciate the value of data in Canada is much broader than these heavily regulated sectors. One broad category of potential customers are simply international companies who want to do business in the US, but simply don’t want their data on US soil or controlled by a US entity.
We’ve also seen very specific cases around other unexpected industries, such as music copyrights. Customers have multiple motivations but they are always very clear on requiring their data remain in Canada.
As customers’ needs evolve and mature, so too must the solutions. AWS commands a large lead in terms of cloud market share, but is often only part of the solution. A number of software solutions have emerged to help customers manage resources on multiple clouds. Customers now have more sophisticated requirements, for example:
- certainty about where their application is running
- a deeper relationship with their cloud provider (and leverage other expertise and services)
- custom configurations
- ensure a stable price against the local currency
- interact with their cloud provider console in their own language
We are certainly not arguing that the global clouds will go away. However, it would be foolish to think they address all the needs of all customers. Regional clouds are a growing segment targeting very specific customer requirements. We are excited to do our part and offer these services in Canada, and look forward to working with Canadian startups and enterprises to build the next generation of IT.