First AWS Canada region customers will be SaaS providers

The first customers of Amazon Web Services (AWS) new Canada (Central) region launched last week will be software as a service (SaaS) providers looking to help their own customers with more stringent data residency requirements, according to executives at those firms.

Other Canadian businesses that have been customers of AWS for years are in no rush to migrate all of their public cloud deployments to the Montreal data centres. Two AWS customers at a Toronto event organized by AWS on Thursday say they’re already comfortable with hosting data in nearby AWS U.S. regions and are more interested in the new managed services being made available.

Data sovereignty may be one of the issues that has prevented some Canadian companies from considering public cloud adoption, suggested Werner Vogels, chief technology officer at Amazon.

“Some customers may just feel more comfortable having something in their territory,” he says. “This may help meet some data residency requirements.”

Microsoft Canada President Janet Kennedy made similar comments earlier in 2016 when Azure unveiled its Canadian region availability. She pointed to customers in the government and financial sectors that would be among the first to take advantage of the region.

At the AWS event, two SaaS providers were invited on stage that are keen to make use of the new Canadian region. Two other business customers see moving their data to rest on Montreal soil as less of a priority.

Richard Eyram, Canadian country manager of, says all of its core services will move to the AWS Canada Central region. will be moving its Canadian customers to the new AWS Canadian region by mid-2017, including its core products such as Sales Cloud, Community Cloud, Service Cloud, App Cloud, and Analytics (Wave). The company known for its cloud-based CRM is serving 6,000 customers in Canada, says Richard Eyram, the Canadian country manager of Salesforce. Eyram says some prospective Canadian customers are hesitant of seeing their data hosted south of the border.

“Some haven’t moved to AWS or to Salesforce because of the contractual or legal concerns, but most of all because of the emotional concern over moving data to the U.S.,” he said on stage.

Kitchener, Ont.-based video marketing platform Vidyard has been an AWS customer for six years, since its startup was first founded. It’s made use of the EC2 service to scale up its video serving and tracking platform from 100 views per day to provide a global presence that serves the same experience in Australia or Japan as it does Canada, says Devon Galloway, chief technology officer at Vidyard. Like Salesforce, Vidyard will cater to its Canuck clients by moving to the AWS Canadian region.

“We have a number of Canadian clients with data residency requirements,” he said. “Between government contracts or regulatory reasons, they’d have these requirements. We wouldn’t move to the Canadian region for our own use case.”

Meanwhile business customers making direct use of AWS’ cloud infrastructure expressed less interest in the Canadian region at the event. Talking to IT World Canada, both airline Porter Airlines and sporting goods maker Lululemon said they’d look at where it made sense to move to the Canadian region, but it wasn’t a priority.

VP of IT Porter Airlines, Donovan Bailey
Daniel Donovan, VP of information systems and technology at Porter Airlines, says he is using Amazon Redshift.

“Most of our data was already outside of Canada, so that is less of an issue for us,” said Daniel Donovan, vice-president of information systems and technology at Porter. He points to the airline’s online reservation system as an example of a system hosted in the U.S., and says Porter is mostly deployed in the AWS U.S. East region.

At Lululemon, the new AWS region might serve as the site of a new disaster recovery plan, serving as a fail-over site for the current U.S. West region, says Sam Keen, director of product architecture, digital. It’s also nice to know that AWS has the Canadian hosting option available, he adds.

“If our stakeholders believe it makes sense to have our data in Canada, we now have that option,” he says. “We don’t have to go to a vendor and standup a colocation, we can still use AWS.”

Rather than focus on the new Canadian region, IT leaders are looking forward to experimenting with more of the managed services AWS is offering on top of its infrastructure as ways to enhance their own capabilities. At its recent Re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, AWS announced a long list of new services that included artificial intelligence features.

Donovan says Porter has been using Redshift, a petabyte-scale data warehouse service for the purpose of data analytics. At Vidyard, Galloway wants to start using the new Elastic Search service after running an elastic search cluster on EC2 for the last year and a half.

“We can turn down those EC2 boxes and just run it on the managed service,” he says. “Less work for our ops team, less work for our application developers, and it’s actually cheaper.”

AWS users interested in specific services will want to check the cloud provider’s region chart to see if the service they want to use is available out of Montreal yet.

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Former editorial director of IT World Canada. Current research director at Info-Tech

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