Microsoft Canada is launching availability zones in Canada, following through on a promise made in January and competing with similar infrastructure already rolled out by Google and Amazon Web Services.

The new Azure Availability Zones (AZ) will be based in Canada’s Central region, according to Kevin Peesker, who dropped the news in a blog post and subsequent live stream during Microsoft Ignite. Availability zones provide users with access to data centres that are in the same geographic region but physically separate, each featuring their own power, networking and connectivity infrastructure. So if for whatever reason one data centre goes offline, another one in the same area is ready to take over. Microsoft accelerated its roadmap for AZs in other countries after a nasty storm knocked out an Azure data centre in San Antonio in 2018, rendering cloud apps for many customers, even in Canada, useless.

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“This will bring an even wider set of capabilities for our customers to create resilient, highly available applications for mission-critical workloads using regions within Canada,” the president of the Canadian business said from his home Tuesday.

The AZs help further address data sovereignty needs for a country that’s increasingly relying on the internet to keep its economy running. It’s also top of mind for most CIOs and security pros nowadays. That was clear by the active chat during the live stream, especially users who had already planted their data in the U.S. before a Canadian option was available. “We are on a list to have our US data moved to Canada (where possible). We mainly care about Teams data as we want our chat/channel messages in Canada. When can we expect this to happen?” someone asked.

Moments before announcing new Azure Availability Zones in Canada, Microsoft Canada president talked about how other businesses were taking advantage of Microsoft cloud capabilities in Canada. Screenshot.

“The time horizon that has been communicated, is to move any customer that has opted in, no later than Q2 2021,” a Microsoft Ignite moderator responded.

Even before the pandemic, there was a swell of activity from both startups and enterprises taking advantage of cloud capabilities, according to Henrik Gütle, the general manager of Azure for Microsoft Canada.

“We’re seeing rapid adoption of cloud services in Canada,” he told Channel Daily News in a January interview. “We’re seeing tremendous interest from startups, especially those in later stages of seed funding.”

He also said the new AZ will represent a “natural extension” of capabilities belonging to the more than 9,000 Microsoft partners in Canada.

The latest expansion north of the border is Microsoft’s largest increase in compute capacity since the original launch of Microsoft’s first data centre in Canada in 2016, at 1,300 per cent. Australia also got its own AZ this month, bringing Microsoft’s total number of AZ-serviced regions to 14.

That capacity is crucial for a world that’s crammed in two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months, a popular figure Satya Nadella shared earlier this year and was cited frequently on day one of Ignite. This “tech intensity” as Nadella described during his keynote Tuesday, is not going away anytime soon, and adapting to these pressures will be how customers and partners “weather the storm.”

 

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