BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada is one step closer to its goal of being a one-stop-shop for public and private cloud deployments with its new status as an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Direct Connect location.

Its addition of direct connections to AWS’ Canada (Central) region from Montreal and Toronto add to the other private access arrangements already made with Microsoft Azure and IBM Cloud. Bell Cloud Connect offers users secure and private connections to hyper-scale cloud providers, helping customers avoid the risks and compliance problems associated with relying on public internet connections to do so.

“We continue to focus heavily on the connect-first approach with the cloud,” says Mike Lapalme, director of product management for IoT, data centre and cloud services with Bell. Our strategy “is hybrid in its focus. It’s a cloud service broker in its ultimate guise.”

With the addition of AWS to its direct connect partners, Bell now only lacks a direct connection with Google Cloud Platform out of all the hyperscale providers. Google only opened up its Canadian region a few weeks ago.“It’s ensuring that we’re going where our customers are and providing them with as much flexibility as possible in where they intend to consume their workloads,” Lapalme says. “It’s not enough to move to the cloud and consume the technology as a service if the network doesn’t align with the best access to mission critical workloads.”

Working with its public cloud partners, and using its position as Canada’s largest data centre owner – with 28 across the country since acquiring Q9 Networks Inc. in August 2016 – Bell looks to be in a good position this year to leap the hurdle from a focus on connections to a focus on more advanced capabilities. Leaning on its large network and presence in every major connectivity hub in Canada, Bell has put itself in an arbiter position when it comes to cloud connectivity. IDC Canada’s MarketScape report for 2018 places Bell as a major player alongside Telus and Google, but with slightly more advanced capabilities.

Bell offers a self-service portal that can be tapped to access its own private infrastructure services – compute and storage – or that of a public cloud partner. Given those tools and that sort of convenience, LaPalme hopes to see customers pushing more of their workloads into the cloud in the near future.

“We hope that customers will relinquish that control and get back to their core competencies and rely on us to provide them with cloud that’s reliable and secure,” he says.

To that end, Bell is looking to reduce latency in cloud connections wherever possible. The private connections to AWS, Azure, and IBM Cloud help with that. Further integrating its own cloud network is another aspect to explore. LaPalme says there are plans to make more intra-data centre connections between not only the 28 core sites, but to Bell’s 1,700 central offices across the country as well. Presenting those individual points of presence as one consolidated cloud is a goal, but also requires Bell to invest in new physical infrastructure in some cases. Bell is currently assessing which key facilities require the connectivity services it has on offer. Lapalme didn’t provide any number of central offices that Bell will connect this year, but says it’d be a small number that is really required.

In terms of working with channel partners, Bell doesn’t have any big changes to announce, but Lapalme is willing to hint at what the carrier has in mind further down the road. That could involve independent software vendors (ISVs) to further enhance capabilities.

“There’s a requirement to consider the value that ISVs could bring to Bell,” he says. “The developers out there writing code and using PaaS [Platform as a Service] tools like Bluemix.”

ISVs could provide a trusted relationship with certain customers and Bell could provide its network for deployment of the services built by those ISVs. It could also lead to services more tailored for specific verticals, whereas Bell is more focused on delivering capabilities that are more horizontally targeted. (Re: Every industry needs compute and storage.)

Bell’s main selling point for developers would be the same one it’s putting forward to enterprise customers: the lowest latency access to the cloud available.

[You can read more about the Canadian cloud ecosystem in CDN’s February digital magazine, which focuses on the top cloud providers in the country]

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