Earlier this year, Invest Ottawa — a city-funded group that helps promote economic development — appointed business development managers to oversee growth in various clusters of the local high-tech sector.
Steven Woodward is the CEO of Cloud Perspectives.
OBJ recently spoke to those managers, as well as a cloud expert, to get their insights into these key areas.
Here is what Steven Woodward, the CEO of Cloud Perspectives, had to say to reporter David Sali about the cloud sector:
We have a lot of different cloud players, right from some of the major telcos and systems integrators to some of the smaller companies that actually have a specific focus such as security and encryption. In Ottawa, a lot of the companies that are involved with cloud are very much involved in the international space, because that’s where the markets are. As well, until we get some sort of specific government direction, the Ottawa market is going to be more focused on the international sectors rather than on Canadian consumers. It’s kind of interesting right now – everything’s accelerating really fast. Basically, all of the major telcos now are involved to some extent with the cloud. They actually have a lot of infrastructure that’s been set up because they all offer Internet services. They’ve actually had to add a lot of capacity just in case you have the next (royal) wedding ... that gets a million hits. They have a lot of infrastructure in place that they want to see better utilized. The other thing the telcos have is the network. In cloud computing, if your network is unstable, the odds are pretty good that your customer experience in the cloud is also going to suffer.
One of the challenges in Canada is that we still don’t have very good direction from a government point of view. The U.S. has a cloudfirst initiative, so that has helped accelerate some of its cloud activities in terms of trying to figure out how to make it work. In the U.K., they have a cloud strategy, and cloud computing strategies have been developed in New Zealand and Australia and even in China. In Canada, we’re traditionally a pretty cautious lot, so I’m not surprised that we are somewhat last to the cloud table. Our culture is very resistant to risk-taking, and the perception right now by a lot of people is that there are higher risks in the cloud. Some of that’s true, some of it’s not. Ninety-nine per cent of the time, your cloud provider is actually going to have more robust security and privacy and policies in place than your own company does ... but it’s the idea of releasing control.
(Another challenge is) the pricing models are all over the map. It’s basically almost impossible to compare one service (to another) on a consistent basis. No two companies really use the same costing model.
In the Ottawa market, we’re lucky to have a lot of good-quality carriers. One challenging part is our carriers are typically more expensive than some of the other networking carriers, for example, south of the border. That’s a reality, just because of the fact we’re a large country without a lot of people. We don’t have the population to realistically sustain low rates for communication. For small or medium-sized businesses wanting to become cloud providers, one of the basic recommendations is ... you really are going to need to have some type of a relationship with your network/carrier. At the end of the day, the odds are pretty good that if you don’t establish some type of relationship, the customer experience is going to suffer and you’re going to lose business.
The fact that we do have cheap power for data centres is a considerable advantage. We also have a strong pool, being Silicon Valley North, of software engineers who are capable of generating the business software systems that are going to be operating more and more in a cloud environment. In cloud terminology, those are called software-as-aservice products. We also have some platformas-a-service capabilities because of companies ... such as Mitel and Cisco. This applies to the capability to develop software and test software and reusable components. Infrastructure-as-a-service deals with storage, computing and networking within a firewall environment. In Ottawa, again, we have these types of capabilities. We have a lot of companies in Ottawa that are satisfying different needs.
TRENDS TO WATCH
I think we’re going to see an explosion in terms of having additional network capacity being built to have better network connectivity throughout Canada. There are going to be major networking infrastructure projects to (build) a “fibre superhighway” of sorts. On the networking side, we have some capacity, but the issue is as more consumers sign up for the cloud and as more organizations realize what you can do in the cloud, demand for the bandwidth is only going to go up. The network is the critical thing. Basically, no network, no cloud.
Some of the satellite capabilities around network connectivity are also going to explode, probably in the next five years, because you need to put more satellites up there. For some geographic locations, it’s just not going to make sense to run fibre there. You’re going to need to think about using some sort of satellite communication systems.
This interview is part of a six-piece series examining Ottawa's key technology sectors. It originally appeared in the fall edition of Ottawa Technology Magazine.