Microsoft Canada is making sure IT departments know it has their backs when it comes to cloud computing.
At a customer event for Toronto-area IT managers and architects on Thursday, company officials insisted its latest products — Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Visual Studio 2013 — will help organizations meet the demands of both public and private clouds.
“We have one consistent platform, irrespective of where it is — whether its within your own infrastructure, with a service provider, or in a pubic cloud,” Gladstone Grant, head of enterprise specialist sales, Microsoft Canada, told the group.
“Our vision is hybrid by design,” he added, “because we know you don’t want to have everything in a public cloud.”
Using System Center organizations can manage standard, public and private cloud infrastructures, he said. And Active Directory means there’s a single identity across any infrastructure.
European telecom Telefonica S.A. is using a Microsoft private cloud solution to virtualize thousands of servers, he said.
That vision, however, doesn’t include building a data centre here for Microsoft’s hosted Azure infrastructure-and platform -as-a service (IaaS, PaaS) offerings, which compete against Amazon Web Services and others. Microsoft Azure has data centres in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Azure-based services here can only be bought from Canadian cloud providers using the Azure platform to offer IaaS and PaaS, Grant said in an interview.
One of the advantages is these providers also offer local data storage to meet the demands of skittish Canadian organizations afraid to send sensitive data out of the country.
That worry is there: Joe Addison, a Microsoft [Nasdaq: MSFT] practice director for national IT systems integrator Compugen Inc., which resells and helps customers configure access to the global Microsoft Azure service, said in an interview few are willing to put mission-critical apps on the service. Most Compugen customers use Azure for developing and testing applications.
The reason, he said, is they want “empirical evidence” that data held outside the country isn’t vulnerable to access from foreign law enforcement agencies.
That’s one reason why Canadian organizations are playing catch-up with other countries in adopting IaaS and PaaS solutions, said David Senf, an IDC Canada vice-president and infrastructure analyst, who appeared with Grant to answer reporters’ questions during a break in the session.
“We have this fear, uncertainty and doubt about the (U.S.) Patriot Act” — that American law enforcement authorities can access any data on any server in the country — “that in most cases is unreasonable and doesn’t map what the legislation actually entails for Canadian firms,” Senf said.
In fact when IDC Canada asked 400 Canadian firms to classify their data they said 85 per cent of what they have couldn’t be called ‘top secret’ or ‘highly confidential’ information.
Even governments — usually the first to insist their data has to reside here — are rethinking signing up for offshore cloud offerings, he said. Recently he spoke to an unnamed person in the public sector who said encrypting personal data is the answer.
Senf admitted that customers of some organizations — banks, for example — are behind the pressure to ensure that personal data isn’t shipped out of the country.
“I think over time that as we get more comfortable with use of Hotmail, or Facebook or whatever our concern will diminish,” he added.
Still IaaS sales here today are small — about $61 million a year, but are expected to hit $250 million three years from now. Similarly, PaaS sales here total about $63 million a year and will hit $150 million in three years.