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.
Kelly Daize is the senior business development manager for the wireless sector at Invest Ottawa.
OBJ recently spoke to those managers, as well as a cloud expert, to get their insights into these key areas.
Here is what Kelly Daize, a senior business development manager at Invest Ottawa, had to say to reporter David Sali about the wireless sector:
When we did our research project last year, we discovered that 74 per cent of the companies owning optical networking in the world have R&D centres here. Alcatel-Lucent has 2,400 people, Ciena is growing and Cisco is growing. Infinera is another player and a lot of people don’t even know they’re here. BTI Systems and Optelian are two Ottawa homegrown companies that are taking market share. These guys are here and they’re just quietly growing, for the most part.
BlackBerry, they always talk about Waterloo, but they need to talk about Ottawa more. They’re here, they’re doing all of their nextgeneration software here with QNX. Huawei’s here, too. IBM, they do all of their analytics stuff out of Ottawa with their acquisition of Cognos. We have everything from the components experts right through to the people doing applications. We’ve got the satellite firms, which includes companies such as CCom, EMS Satcom (which is now part of Honeywell) and Telesat, all of which are doing some great stuff. And then there are the backhaul companies, the DragonWaves of the world, the network management, the Bridgewaters (now a division of Amdocs). We’ve got kind of all of the pieces of that whole entire ecosystem, right from JDS on through. JDS is still here. If you go on their website, they’ve got lot of job recs out, they have over 400 people, they’re here and they’re doing great stuff.
The Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre (an engineering and manufacturing foundry service) is the only one of its kind in all of North America. It attracts companies from all around the world. They’re like, ‘Oh, we’ve got this piece of infrastructure. Wow, look at the competency in Ottawa.’ These guys, they’re booming, they’re going 24/7 now, they’re looking to expand. It’s really quite a success story.
Ninety per cent of Canada’s telecom R&D is conducted in Ottawa. I’d argue there’s no other city in the world that has everything from the components right through to the applications. People really understand networks here in Ottawa. That comes from our legacy with Nortel and BNR before them.
A lot of the new companies that are coming into the sector are on the software side. The hardware is never going to go away, but to start a hardware company these days is really difficult. It’s usually a bit of a longer-term turnaround on investment, it’s a much more expensive play, you’ve got to prototype, you’ve got to do all these other things. So just losing some of that venture capital on the hardware side is something I hope changes for the sector. Two of the stars in my sector are (Kanata-based optical networking equipment vendors) Optelian and BTI Systems. I bet if we talked to them, they would probably say, ‘I don’t know if we could start this company today.’ It would be hard to get the capital to do that. And yet they’re two of our fastest-growing companies.
In terms of things we could do better, one of them is raising (the city’s) profile. I would argue we’re still the leader in telecom in Canada. The jumping-off point from that is all these applications and things that run on that network, and we’re certainly seeing a lot of new companies playing in that space, especially with having BlackBerry here doing all of their software stuff. It’s OK to be a telecom city. We need to be positive. We’ve got the competency to compete with other players in the world.
TRENDS TO WATCH
What I’m seeing in trends in telecom is this whole shift to programmable networks. A lot of the carriers, they’ve built the network and now they’re trying to get more out of the network. Terms like software-defined networking are really hot in the sector now. And that’s great, but if you don’t really understand the network and how it works, how do you write that software? We’re starting to see some new companies pop up. Network function virtualization is another term you’re going to see. That’s again ... trying to get more out of that hardware using software. How do you get more bandwidth? How do you speed it up? The Internet is everywhere, so how are we going to deal with this data overload? That’s probably the biggest trend I’m seeing in the sector ... and I’d say Ottawa is super wellpositioned for that. We’ve got that legacy – that core competency on the hardware side.
This test bed that we’re looking at building (to allow smaller developers to test out software on hardware from various companies), it will be able to test these new applications – so areas like health care, mining and energy are huge. Smart grid and energy projects, defence and security, particularly IT security, that’s super hot.
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.