Microsoft is opening two new Azure data centers in Canada, the company announced this past week. The massive cloud computing facilities are set to open in Toronto and Quebec City in 2016.
Quentin Kong, vice president of marketing and business development for Softchoice, an IT services provider serving North America, told eWEEK that the move is welcome news for many Canadian companies that have been sitting on the sidelines as enterprises rush to cloudify their workloads.
"One potential obstacle has been removed for our customers," he said, referencing the concerns that security-conscious firms and agencies have over entrusting their sensitive and private data to U.S.-based data centers. When it comes to their critical business data, there's no place like home.
Although Microsoft boasts of ultra-secure physical and computer-based security measures that protect its cloud data centers, some companies are still reluctant to use non-Canadian data centers. Others are prohibited to offshore data by regulations affecting their business.
In a world changed by Edward Snowden's National Security Agency privacy revelations, some Canadian companies aren't taking any chances. "There continues to be a feeling that jurisdiction over data being held locally within the country is a greater safeguard," said Kong. "Canadian customers have been well-served, but this enhances that."
The issue of cloud data residency and sovereignty rights is a major source of contention in Microsoft's ongoing court battle with the U.S. government over Outlook.com emails stored in an Irish data center. In a Dec. 23 friend of the court brief, the Irish government reasserted its sovereign rights in the U.S. Department of Justice's (DoJ) attempts to access data stored within its borders, despite a lack of participation up to that point.
Data privacy concerns aside, the new data centers will help set Microsoft's Canadian customers "on a path to having a broad global footprint," Kong said, noting the company's ever-expanding cloud reach. Setting up shop in Canada "means greater redundancy" for all local customers, as well as blazing network speeds for businesses situated in close proximity to the new Azure data centers.
Naturally, as a Microsoft partner, the expansion into Canada is "really good news for us," said Kong. "We're seeing tremendous growth and demand for Azure and Office 365," services that Softchoice helps manage and deploy for customers.
The country's cloud computing market stands to gain as well, he added. "The Canadian marketplace slightly lags, but as the gap closes, opportunities [open up] for other providers."
"Soon, the Microsoft Cloud will be truly Canadian," said Kevin Turner, COO of Microsoft, in a June 2 announcement. "This substantial investment in a Canadian cloud demonstrates how committed we are to bringing even more opportunity to Canadian businesses and government organizations, helping them fully realize the cost savings and flexibility of the cloud."
Microsoft expects to flip the switch on Azure cloud services in early 2016, with Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online to follow later that year.