Did Edward Snowden just save the Canadian cloud computing industry?

The CEO of the Canadian Cloud Council comments on the recent controversies about U.S. surveillance and how it might shift thinking among local CIOs

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Was anyone really surprised when Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency collects massive amounts of customer data from cloud service providers and (gasp) disseminates it as they see fit through the U.S. federal government?  I mean, isn’t this what they do for a living?  For those of you not familiar with their business model, I suggest watching Matt Damon explain why he “shouldn’t work for the NSA” in his very first film Good Will Hunting.  He nails it.

At any rate, perception is reality, and it must becoming harder and harder for U.S.-based public cloud companies to sell Canadian customers on the fact that “it doesn’t matter where their data is hosted.”  Businesses, rightfully so, view their data as intellectual property, and how many Canadian CIOs are going to sign off on the potential fire sale of their company’s core asset?  Hey, we were already a risk-adverse bunch before Snowden bought a one way ticket to Russia and every Canadian CEO started asking questions about cloud computing and where their company’s data is hosted.  Ironically, the cloud conversation finally started at the top level of every Canadian company. And, this, thank you Edward, is a very good thing.

Cloud computing has been called lots of things, but “the second industrial revolution,” probably summarises its transformational capabilities the best.  It dramatically improves and accelerates the way companies develop, monetize and commercialize innovation, engage with their customers, and differentiate against their competition.  These are big, strategic, game-changing things but the NSA/PRISM scandal has forced Canadian companies to take a closer look at the potential risk of hosting their data with big U.S.-based cloud companies.  You know, the ones with massively distributed, highly scalable and very inexpensive cloud offerings.  I’ve heard many Canadian CIOs say “if only there was a Canadian solution similar to Amazon or Rackspace, we could remove the privacy barrier and risk and assertively begin our journey to the cloud”.

In fact, there are a growing number of options available for Canadian enterprises interested in the cloud, including Allstream’s Hosted Collaboration Solution.

So, then, Edward Snowden may have shed light on a program that has been accused of possibly “killing the U.S. Internet Industry” (it won’t – the CIA contract Amazon just won was a big one), but I suggest we leverage Edward’s clean conscience as an opportunity to finally start building a viable Canadian cloud ecosystem.  One that can compete with the Amazons of the world, not just because it is built across Canadian data centers, but one that can compete globally on its own uniqueness and merit.  Wait a minute, are those drones circling above my head?

Learn more about a cloud-based offering that could redefine the way your company communicates. Introducing Allstream Hosted Collaboration Solution

Image courtesy of tungphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  1. Great article Robert. Thanks! and thanks to Edward Snowdon for increasing the demand for Canada-based cloud service providers. Where there is increased demand, supply will soon follow! However, I am curious as to why there are no references to our federal government’s cloud action plan and response to privacy concerns. Is the Harper government complicit in NSA snooping? Are they too in the spying game, sharing our on-line keystrokes and site visits information with our neighbours to the south?

    I truly hope not because we, as a nation, have an opportunity to turn this privacy concern into a strength if only our federal government would enact legislation guaranteeing the privacy of data stored in the cloud, and providing regulations that will support and enhance Canadian-based cloud service providers’ offerings on a global level. Much like the tax havens of the world, or the privacy of Swiss banking, the Canadian government has a unique opportunity to turn this “next big thing” (cloud computing) into a national industry where we are seen as an innovative leader, creating even larger demand for Canadian-based cloud services. With our relatively cheap electricity, and our cool weather (read: Free cooling of the data centre), the operational expenses of running data centres in Canada are surely cost effective. Add to that government incentives and clear laws and regulations, and Canada would be soon seen as a world leader in this space.

    As a nation, we love to differentiate ourselves from our neighbours to the south. This is not only a great opportunity to get a leg up, but also fulfill a global need and create a name for ourselves in an industry that is sure to remain “hot” not only in IT but business as a whole for the foreseeable future.

    Rob Starkell / 10 years ago
  2. Excellent article. Thank you, Robert.

    I think there’s no doubt that there is an opportunity for Canadian cloud providers to step in and create a cloud ecosystem where privacy matters. I think it also likely, however, that any serious company would want some kind of assurances on the part of the Canadian government before investing millions of dollars on a secure and private infrastructure only to have CSIS swoop in and demand backdoor access into everything.

    Think that couldn’t happen in Canada? Think again. The Harper government has time and again introduced legislation that would give them warrantless access to Internet-based identifying information. It is only through the incredible efforts of activists and public outrage that they backed down. In this climate any company like Allstream would be foolish to bank on a bright future of private cloud servers when we know; I say again: we KNOW that they will introduce legislation like this again and again until finally passes in whatever milder form they can get away with.

    Of course they want to have the same abilities as the NSA, albeit on a smaller budget. Wouldn’t you want the same if you were in their shoes?

    Like Switzerland does for banking, we have an opportunity to distinguish ourselves in this arena, if we can have the right leadership and assurances to build a business model that can survive more than a few years. I believe in this opportunity so much I would join any genuinely Canadian cloud computing initiative on the ground floor, but not before I thought it had a reasonable chance of success long term. In the US, principled companies like Lavabit and Silent Circle closed rather than disclose their customers’ private data.

    Would Allstream do the same? I like to think so.

    Alex Nuta / 10 years ago


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