Savvis opens doors to Canada-based public cloud

Following calls for a public cloud hosted on this side of border, Savvis Inc. on Tuesday announced the availability of its Symphony VPDC (virtual private data centre) in Canada.

Symphony is part of a class of public clouds that provide additional layers of data security. They are often integrated closely with private clouds or on-premise infrastructure. Dan Patton, general manager of cloud services at Savvis, describes it as a “container” with three tiers of architecture, and security features and firewalls behind each tier.

“From the customer’s experience, it’s like having your own data centre,” he said, adding that Savvis is focused on providing flexibility for customers with different IT environments. “We are very much about hybrid solutions and I think customers are right in expecting that from their service provider.”

The location of the data centre will appeal to Canadian companies that may be wary about hosting sensitive data abroad. Concerns about the legal ramifications of the U.S. Patriot Act in particular have led to an increased demand for providers with a presence on Canadian soil.

“Depending on the data, customers can be sensitive as to where that data resides,” said Patton. “That was really the feedback we had from our Canadian base of customers.”

Certain companies in Canada, he said, have legal requirements to store their data in-country, while others are simply more comfortable using local infrastructure. “At the end of the day, it’s important for a service provider to offer what the customer wants.”

James Alexander, senior vice-president of London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Inc., said while Canadian businesses aren’t necessarily taking a big risk by storing their data stateside, perception of this risk, however small it may be, is enough to influence business decisions.  Thus, for Savvis, there was a clear advantage to building in Toronto.

“Once you get beyond that sort of consumer-grade cloud that we see and you get into more of an industrial-grade of cloud,” said Alexander, “then everything is about the same. So, having a local facility, while it’s certainly a mandate in a lot of industries, even if it’s not a mandate it’s still another tick box that gives you some kind of competitive differentiation.”

Another Canadian industry analyst, Mark Schrutt, director of services and enterprise applications at IDC Canada Inc., noted that there are technological advantages to Savvis hosting a cloud in Canada as well. “There’s also a latency issue,” he said. “So, having a Canadian cloud offering can hopefully improve the performance of their customers.”

Alexander said the company is now in a good position in the cloud services market for several reasons, including large amounts of data centre real estate worldwide, excellent security features for its products and flexible, by-the minute billing.

Schrutt, meanwhile, said that Savvis faces “major restrictions” within Canada at the moment, with only a single large data centre in Toronto and two very small ones in Montreal and Vancouver.

“They need to really expand,” said Schrutt, possibly in another region of Ontario or in another province. “My understanding is that they were looking in Alberta, and I think that’s a good move. But they compete with the Teluses and Bells of this world. So, strong competition.”

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