Silanis gives Canadian users option to keep data on home soil with IBM Cloud

“Just sign here” – the phrase that makes wrapping up a transaction with the stroke of a pen seem so easy to many of us is one that Michael Laurie, vice-president of product strategy at Silanis Technology, thinks about a lot.

Working for the Montreal-based provider of e-signature solutions, Laurie provides his clients a solution that can take a transaction from start to finish without the need to print out a voluminous contract. Sometimes it’s a sales person that’s using Silanis ad-hoc to close a deal, other times it’s a bank that’s closing a mortgage agreement with multiple signatures collected over various sessions. In either case, the end-user is able to pick up the transaction from any device, from anywhere they happen to be working.

To be sure it can deliver that to its clients, Silanis has been an early adopter of cloud computing. Five years ago, that meant farming out Amazon’s EC2 infrastructure, provided by U.S.-based servers. But late last year, Silanis felt a change was needed for its Canadian clients.

“We found that a number of Canadian companies want to have Canadian data residency,” he says. “It just simplifies their life from a legal and compliance perspective.”

Silanis switched its infrastructure provider for its Canadian clients to IBM Cloud. It had worked with IBM as a business partner for a decade and Big Blue’s acquisition of SoftLayer Technologies Inc., a Dallas-based computing infrastructure firm, piqued its interest. SoftLayer opened a data centre in Toronto last summer, and IBM’s expansion of data centres based on the SoftLayer model included a new Montreal-based location earlier this month. Silanis continues to use AWS to provide cloud services to its customers in the U.S.

In fact, IBM has already boosted the number of data centres based on the SoftLayer model from 26 to 40 around the world, according to Neil Knupp, vice-president of cloud at IBM Canada. Akin to opening up a Tim Horton’s franchise, each data centre uses an identical model to become operational as quickly as possible.

“We know exactly what has to go where and we’ve got it down to a groove, so it happens very quickly,” Knupp says.

IBM’s clients are demanding data residency within the same borders that they do business, he says. “Everyone used to have concerns about the Patriot Act. It caused many of our clients to put all sorts of regulations about what had to be stored where.”

More recently, revelations made by leaked documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden have stoked the flames of data sovereignty concerns in Canada and elsewhere. Beyond those factors, Silanis has long felt that cloud technology was a better option than running its own data centres, Laurie says, and in IBM Cloud, it has both public and private cloud options to offer its clients.

Often its clients in the financial services industry are seeking a private cloud deployment. In these cases, Silanis can even give its clients the option of managing their own cloud infrastructure directly.

“We do management in some cases, but in others these organizations are working with IBM,” he says. “They see the opportunity of having experienced people managing those types of deployments.”

A diagram shows a portion of SoftLayer's dedicated network.
A diagram shows a portion of SoftLayer’s dedicated network.

IBM Cloud offers APIs that allow clients to customise how they interact with their cloud infrastructure. It can be used to connect applications just as if the server was sitting in their own data centre, Knupp explains. The user can also request new compute and storage requirements as needed – either manually or programmatically.

This type of support is part of the appeal of IBM Cloud for Silanis, Laurie says. It’s not something he got out of Amazon, which is a purely self-service experience.

“That’s fine for Amazon, but when an organization wants a greater level of control and wants to work with a trusted business partner, that’s when the solution becomes quite valuable,” he says.

IBM Cloud service is a similar cost structure to Amazon, Laurie says, and much less than the costs of an on-premises data centre model.

Now that IBM is opening a data centre in Montreal, Silanis will have the option of moving its data even closer to home – or provisioning computing power at any other SoftLayer location in the world. This is made possible because IBM has created a private fibre-optic network to connect all of the SoftLayer data centres, Knupp says.

“A client who signs up for SoftLayer could have their production systems in the Montreal data centre and a backup in the Toronto data centre,” he says. “Those two centres are connected by a high-speed redundant network.”

Now that it’s working with IBM for its infrastructure, Silanis is focusing on a project to merge its on-premises and cloud user interfaces into one and the same by the middle of this year. That will give the on-premises customers of Silanis the same capability to integrate their existing applications.

“The desire to create customized applications is huge. Integration is a part of their life,” Laurie says. “What we’re starting to see with the cloud is that business people are realizing they don’t have to wait a year or longer for their IT team to build something.”

You might say it’s as easy as signing on the dotted line – but Laurie knows there’s a bit more to the story.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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