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Amazon Announces AWS Region in Canada

Following the recent news about its South Korea region reaching general availability, Amazon has announced its plans to enter the Canadian market in 2016.

The new region will be opening in Montreal, Quebec and a 2016 launch date is being targeted. For Amazon, they will be entering a jurisdiction known for strict climate policies. As an example, in 2015 Quebec Environment Minister David Heurtel has indicated “he wants to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the province by 37.5 per cent below 1990 levels, by 2030.”

As a result of ambitious environment policies, Amazon is ensuring their region aligns with Quebec’s environmental goals.  Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, explains how Amazon’s new region will have a limited environmental footprint: “this region will be carbon-neutral and powered almost entirely by clean, renewable hydro power.”

Amazon’s entrance into Canada allows for a new customer segment by allowing Canadian government entities to use Amazon’s cloud computing service. In late 2014, the Treasury Board of Canada issued a request for information (RFI) as part of a government-wide policy on cloud computing usage. Michael Geist, a law professor from the University of Ottawa feels the RFI provided some insight into the government’s strategy: “The government’s cloud computing RFI provides considerable insight into its current thinking. Of particular interest are the privacy implications of using cloud computing services, particularly where the data is either hosted outside the country or by foreign-owned organizations.”

Some of the provisions within the RFI impose restrictions on how and where data is stored.  These requirements include:

  • The Services Provider (the Contractor) must not store any non-public, personal or sensitive data and information outside of Canada. This includes backup data and disaster recovery locations.
  • The Contractor must encrypt all non-public, personal and sensitive data and information in 
    transit to the Cloud during the life of the Contract and 90 days after termination.

Amazon is not the only public cloud vendor going after Canadian government clients and companies looking to avoid data sovereignty concerns. In June 2015, Microsoft announced its plans to enter the Canadian business market in 2016.  Microsoft’s plans include two Canadian Azure data centers. Both data centers will be in eastern Canada, with plans to launch in Toronto, Ontario and Quebec City, Quebec.

For both Microsoft and Amazon opportunities now exist in this Canadian market as a result of providing local services and therefore removing objections involving data privacy and data sovereignty.  According to IDC, “total public cloud spend in Canada is projected to grow to $2.5B in 2016. The fastest growth will be from Public cloud infrastructure with a strong 45 per cent increase.”

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