OnX exec talks on Canadian cloud trends

As time goes on, we’re becoming more open to the idea of moving our infrastructure to a trusted cloud provider. Part of this is no doubt due to the many different options out there, from the large-scale public cloud offerings to locked-down private clouds, and increasingly, dedicated cloud hosting environments.

But perhaps it’s also the result of vendors making a more compelling case for cloud: Explaining it better, demonstrating it better, and thus increasing confidence in a widely misunderstood shift in the IT market.

We ask Paul Khawaja, OnX Enterprise Solutions’ executive vice-president for Canada, for his take on what’s new and interesting at his company.
 
 
 
 

[ComputerWorld Canada] How is your communications strategy going? You often hear that clients —they’re not sure exactly what cloud is — and sometimes it’s kind of hard on the sales and marketing side to explain the benefits. And there are a lot of misconceptions about it; people have different definitions.

Do you think that the communication of what cloud can do for business has improved in your company? Have you been able to articulate it better?

[Paul Khawaja] I believe that is a part of the secret sauce, if not the secret sauce. Very early on, it became clear to us that our clients have many different definitions of cloud. Our people have very many different definitions of cloud. We need to bring it together. So, we took our offering and we broke it down into very simple offerings: Virtual multitenant, virtual data centre, dedicated private hosting, On-Message, which talks to e-mail in the cloud.

Most important for us was our consulting services, where our consultants would go out and work with the client to help implement those transitions.

I see clients that are newly coming into the cloud who want to go through the dedicated private hosting model, because they’re still not comfortable sharing the environment. Some of our traditional dedicated private hosting clients are moving more and more into shared environments. So, we’re starting to see shifts in thinking and what I call “comfort.”

Internally, we have an extremely rigorous training process. Roger [Hamshaw, director of marketing and managed services at OnX] and team would run weekly training sessions, and that’s coupled, of course, with the material we send out. We have a calendar that goes six months into the future to ensure that our sales team knows how to sell it, how to position it to their client and what the financial reward and benefit for the client is when you look at OpEX vs. CapEx investment.

[ComputerWorld Canada] A question about your public sector clients: This is kind of an interesting trend that I’ve seen, where governments, whether municipal, provincial, or federal, are starting to move their computing into the cloud, even in some cases to the public cloud. Is this a new thing for you, to be dealing with public sector clients, or before cloud was all the rage, did you have a good relationship already established?

[Paul Khawaja] We had a good relationship, but I have to admit, I am pleasantly surprised how the Canadian public sector is reacting to the cloud. Sometimes, I feel in Canada we come under attack, that we don’t adopt technology fast enough.

I’ve met with many governments throughout Canada over the last few weeks, and each and every one of them is either implementing cloud projects, looking to implement cloud projects — many of them are looking to move their e-mail in its entirety to the cloud. Many of them are looking to procure server and storage capacity in the cloud.

But the biggest concern they have is privacy and the Patriot Act, which means your data centre has got to be in Canada, your lines cannot run down to the U.S. And that’s what we do extremely well — again, our data centres are in Canada, we have the Privacy Act under control, and that is what’s opening the door for us with the public sector clients.

[ComputerWorld Canada] You had a program where people could come into your Toronto data centre and do kind of a test drive of the cloud. Are you still offering this? And if so, how is it going?

[Paul Khawaja] Yes, we do. And it’s going really well. We have labs set up for it. We have multiple demands coming in and again, it’s connected to our consulting services. We have an offering that we take to the marketplace that we put a lot of focus on, and that’s cloud assessment. So, as part of the cloud assessment, not all clients, but a good portion of them would come in and run a virtual environment in our lab.



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