The simmering frustrations about Canadian cloud adoption finally erupt

An inside look at CloudLaunch, the event in Ottawa taking place this week which is raising contentious issues around the reasons government and private-sector organizations here have been so slow to get on board

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“I’ve decided to make my presentation about cloud computing in emerging markets,” said one of my fellow speakers at this week’s CloudLaunch conference in Ottawa.

“You mean you’re making it about Canada?” someone nearby asked. Everyone laughed.

It was a telling harbinger for what was to come that morning as vendors and consultants from several different firms took the stage to talk about the opportunities and challenges of spurring adoption of the cloud in Canadian enterprises. I had spent my keynote telling mostly bad news: that CIOs and IT departments remain very cautious about infrastructure as a service, continue to worry about data falling under the U.S. Patriot Act and hesitant to give up control over their compute resources to a third party. Once they had each given their 15-minute presentations to the audience, however, they all assembled for one of the more divisive panel discussions I’ve recently witnessed.

Andrew Fisher, executive vice-president at Wesley Clover, said the biggest barrier to adoption was a lack of interest from organizations, including the government, to stimulate purchase of cloud services from companies here. “We need local support,” he said.

This led to a comparison between the approaches of Canada vs. the United States. According to Reuven Cohen, senior vice-president at Virtustream, the U.S. took a cloud-first approach in part because they developed a fairly generic definition of what the cloud is, and the federal CIO council formally endorsed it as a strategy. However Misha Nossik, CTO of Afore Solutions and founder of the Ottawa Cloud Council, suggested there is no chance we’ll see the same thing happen here.

“In the U.S., the success of the government CIO is determined by how many data centers they close down. That’s the metric,” he said. “In Canada, the government CIOs have millions of dollars to spend and they don’t want to lose that budget.”

Allistair Croll, founder of CloudOps research and the facilitator of the two-day CloudLaunch event, interjected to point out that although the government in Canada represents the largest single purchaser of ICT, the number of private-sector enterprises taken as a whole still dwarfs that investment. “Why not just sell to the enterprise?” he asked. “Why do you need to sell to the government?”

“I’ll tell you why!” shouted Mitel founder Terry Matthews, raising his hand and jumping up from his seat for the first time since giving the welcoming remarks at the conference. “Because if you don’t, customers will say, ‘Why should I buy from you? You can’t even sell to your own government!’”

It was, to say the least, rather heated. And refreshing. For the last several years, most of the events focused on cloud computing have been almost blindly optimistic that Canadian organizations, public sector or otherwise, will eventually come to their senses and start signing away portions of their data centres and applications. From Cohen’s insistence that the secret for his success in selling to DFAIT was largely based on knowing the right people to Croll’s recommendation that the government “take the training wheels off” and let local cloud companies succeed or fail on their own merits, this was a frank exchange about hurdles that won’t easily be overcome. We need to have more of them.

My main point to the CloudLaunch crowd was that adoption in Canada won’t get much farther unless CIOs and vendors can forge a new kind of trusted partnership, one that looks a lot different in a world of ongoing services than it did in the previous one of on-premise sales. The concept of cloud and all it offers – some might say threatens – is going to put all those vendor relationships to the test. And it is a test they cannot afford to fail.

Learn more about the benefits of the cloud  by registering for Allstream’s upcoming Oct. 24 Webinar, ‘Cloud Computing: Improve ROI on Your Data Center Strategy.’

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5 Comments

  1. It has been said that certain flavours of cloud, in hype ccyle terms, are passing (or have passed) the peak of inflated expectatons and are heading downhill towards the “trough of disillusionment”. Shane, your comments may be reflecting this state of affairs.
    From another viewpoint, using Chasm Theory, its not clear yet if there’s a gorilla forming…..so that many traditional early adopters may still be confused as to who to bet on for their services.
    Finally, you mention new forms of vendor-buyer partnership will be needed. I think this is being frustrated by current forms of public sector procurement – are Cloud Services something you have a Vendor of record for? Or do you do a separate RFP every time you need a different service? This can certainly minimize many of the Cloud agility arguments.

    Don Sheppard / 8 years ago
    • Thanks Don. Yes, this came up in the discussion as well. Someone pointed out that unlike the U.S., it’s getting harder and harder for SMBs to really be a part of public sector IT projects in Canada, unless they’re relegated to sub-sub-contractor status. That’s an issue that I think transcends cloud and needs to be examined as a general symptom of ICT purchasing problems in Canada.

      Shane Schick / 8 years ago
  2. Great post and comments! FYI – For those who attended the 2nd day, Timothy Grayson, Alistair Croll et al delivered some superbly eloquent and passionate calls to action regarding this Canadian Cloud logjam. I urge everyone who shares this frustration to work with Robert Hart and other Canadian Cloud Council members to make forward progress on those recommendations!

    Val Bercovici / 8 years ago
  3. So did they discuss any serious cloud providers in Canada today? Would like to know some.

    Graham Thompson / 8 years ago