“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.’