AWS touts growth, investments in Canada and progress on sustainability at re:Invent 2023

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has invested C$1.4 billion in Canada since June of 2016 and plans to invest C$21 billion by 2037. That was just one of the announcements at a special briefing session for the Canadian media at AWS’ re:Invent 2023 conference this week. Rejean Bourgault, country leader and managing director, public sector for AWS Canada, outlined a number of ways in which AWS is investing in Canada and the Canadian ICT sector.

New infrastructure region

Bourgault announced that the company will officially launch a new infrastructure region consisting of three “availability zones” which are clusters of data centres in Calgary in early 2024. This will bring the number of availabity zones in Canada to six, Bourgault stated AWS was the only cloud provider to offer a region in western Canada.

The new western zone will reduce latency for companies in Western Canada, but it will also provide a number of other benefits.

Having a new major infrastructure in the west also allows large companies and governments to have a second geographically separate backup while still retaining their data in Canada. Bourgault pointed out, for example, that military requirements specify at least 1,000 kilometre separation for backup facilities, but the new facility will far exceed those requirements, giving “more than 3,000 kilometre separation of the facilities.

“Local zone” expansion

AWS is also making more investments in what it terms “local zones” that place compute, storage, database, and other select services closer to large population areas such as the one in Toronto. The aim of these is to provide the bandwidth and latency needed to support demands for high response, low latency and the growing demand for edge computing in key locations with significant population density and high usage.

Sustainability investments

Bourgault also touted the company’s commitment to sustainability and renewable energy. AWS, he noted, is “committed to be ‘net zero’ by 2040, ten years ahead of goals of the Paris accord.”

He noted that the company has also pledged to be using 100 per cent renewable energy sources by 2025, a goal that is both realistic and achievable, according to Bourgault. He noted that Amazon is already at 85 per cent of its target and is already the “largest purchaser of renewable energy in the world.”

Such investments are critical, given that by some estimates, the ICT sector already accounts for about seven per cent of global electricity consumption, currently representing somewhere from three to five per cent of global carbon emissions. The growth in cloud computing is accelerating rapidly with the vast amount of compute required for AI, which could take it to more than 13 per cent of global consumption.

Bourgault also pointed out that meeting these objectives has further economic benefits in Canada. The company has invested hugely in wind and solar. It has announced two giant solar farms, the largest of which, with over 1.3 million solar panels, is in western Canada. It also has a new 485 megawatt wind farm coming online in Alberta.

Social and educational investment

The company has recently announced plans to help contribute to education on cloud computing and AI in Canada, aimed at creating an AI ready work force. This is part of a worldwide program that, among other things, is providing free AI skills training to two million people globally by 2025. AWS has already trained over 200,000 Canadians on cloud skills as part of Amazon’s commitment to train 29 million globally on cloud and technical skills by 2025.

These courses are free, and more information can be found in a story published earlier on IT World Canada.

$8.5 billion in economic impact

Overall, Bourgault noted, the company believes that in 2021, it helped create over “C$8.5 billion of economic impact in Canada,” and “contributed to the growth of 308,000 businesses, which helped increase GDP growth by 1.7 per cent.”

Addition investments would continue this trend and further support the Canadian ICT sector and its contribution to the Canadian economy.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jim Love
Jim Love
I've been in IT and business for over 30 years. I worked my way up, literally from the mail room and I've done every job from mail clerk to CEO. Today I'm CIO and Chief Digital Officer of IT World Canada - Canada's leader in ICT publishing and digital marketing.

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