Microsoft plans two Canadian data centres to address CIOs’ cloud concerns

He’s the mayor of Toronto, not an IT professional, but John Tory has no problem articulating why he sees potential in cloud computing.

“I’m of the age where I still ask my children for advice about these things, but even I knew an 18-year-old email system was not something to be admired,” Tory told a press conference where Microsoft announced it is building two new Canadian data centres to support its cloud-based software products.

Since City Hall moved from Groupwise to Microsoft outlook, Tory added, “We’re now in a situation where we can respond properly.”

Tory’s example is just one of the ways that Microsoft is hoping to encourage more businesses to make the leap from running legacy technology on their on premises to a cloud or software-as-a-service model. The two Canadian data centres will be located in Toronto and Quebec, and will begin by offering its Azure service before the end of this year, executives said.

For years, Canadian CIOs have been reluctant in some cases to use cloud computing over concerns that data would be hosted in foreign countries where different laws around privacy apply. They’ve also been very vocal about worries around how third party firms based in the U.S. or elsewhere might handle their data.

“It meets the demands of those that have been concerned about data residency and geo-redundancy,” said Microsoft Canada president Janet Kennedy, referring to latter case to the ability to move a compute workload from one data centre to another in the event of downtime. Besides the data centres, Kennedy said Microsoft has become compliant with standards like ISO-2700 and others that will prohibit it from using any of the data it manages via cloud computing for marketing or other purposes.

Although some customers will continue to want to run a “private” cloud in their own data centre, Microsoft’s moves could make it easier for them to move to public cloud environments or even hybrid models. “We see that as the ultimate Canadian hat trick,” Kennedy added.

Microsoft COO Kevin Turner, who flew into Toronto for the announcement, said the data centres should appeal not only to large vertical market customers that demand a more local presence, such as the government and financial services, but small and medium-sized businesses as well.

“It opens the door for much greater efficiency in operations,” he said. “You’re not trying to innovate on the IT side, you’re going to be able to innovate on the exterior, with things your customers care about.”

Turner said Canada now joins 19 other countries around the world with local Microsoft data centres supporting its cloud computing products.

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