While Canada has adopted a cloud-first strategy in recent years, it’s not easy for smaller Canadian tech companies to pitch their wares to the public sector, according to Craig McLellan.
On top of the stringent security requirements and certifications needed to service the public sector, simply getting the government’s attention over hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure is a challenge.
That’s why the chief executive officer and founder of cloud service provider ThinkOn, together with other IT channel partners, decided to launch a digital marketplace for the federal government. More than a year in the making, GCloud.ca by ThinkOn launched May 26 and is already waiting to enlist dozens of software vendors that have expressed interest in the portal, McLellan said.
“The hyper clouds have built effectively large uncurated marketplaces where practically anyone with a software product can deploy inside that marketplace and make their product available to the consumer,” McLellan told ITWorldCanada.com. “And our approach is somewhat different. We believe that curation is an important aspect of the marketplace. We’re going to invest the energy and make sure that the applications running and available through this marketplace are in fact secure and secure enough to support government and public sector workloads, and we’re putting our name beside it.”
The government relies heavily on international standards when it comes to cloud adoption. ThinkOn and verified partners on GCloud.ca – enterprise CMS solution provider QuickSilk being the first one – have to maintain, among other things, an ISO 27001, ISO 27017, and ISO 27018, and a SOC 2 compliance certification. It also has to receive a stamp of approval from the Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity (CCCS).
McLellan said many Canadian companies that innovate aggressively and successfully still have difficulty selling to the Canadian public sector. He indicated that the absence of an easy-to-access marketplace to raise those awareness levels across the hundreds of public sector departments is a big reason why.
Garry Brownrigg, founder and CEO of QuickSilk, is no stranger to those challenges.
“We’re not immune…we have the same experiences pitching into government,” Brownrigg told the publication.
But with some dedication, Brownrigg helped QuickSilk get into the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, an office within the Parliament of Canada that provides independent and non-partisan financial and economic analysis.
Together with QuickSilk’s enterprise CMS and collaboration portfolio, that type of recognition quickly caught the attention of McLellan last year. It didn’t take long for him to convince Brownrigg to become part of the new marketplace.
McLellan praised QuickSilk for its dedication to becoming a verified partner on GCloud.ca.
“It’s tedious going through all of this the first time,” he said, noting that it hasn’t deterred “an excess of 100 software vendors” from wanting to participate in the marketplace. McLellan said there are likely more than 15,000 homegrown applications deployed inside the public sector across Canada that can be replaced with SaaS products on GCloud.ca.
“It’s applicable to all levels of the public sector, not just the federal government,” he said.
The new marketplace will not be the go-to source for a quick swap out for a new federal payment system. Still, McLellan said it will be perfectly suited for data warehousing, and various conversion services that address data residing on legacy systems. These systems, he added, have become next-to-impossible to support but can be managed with essentially off-the-shelf cloud-based products that are certified at the highest level and represent the best Canadian tech scale-ups have to offer.
Right now, GCloud.ca offers ThinkOn’s critical cloud infrastructure, data protection, business continuity, and data archiving solutions. QuickSilk’s enterprise CMS and collaboration software can be found under the “Business Applications” category. Other product categories on GCloud.ca include Critical Cloud Infrastructure, Data Protection, Data Archiving, and Business Continuity.
“We want to provide an environment that allows domestic innovation to flourish,” McLellan explained. “We think that we’re solving a lot of problems at the same time.”
“Given recent events like COVID, it becomes even more important for the government to support small businesses, and not just with grants and other programming, but by actually using Canadian technology,” he stated.
Under this program, the Government of Canada and public sector organizations can securely source, procure, and deploy cloud-based solutions through the following channels:
- Directly via GC Cloud Brokering Services
- GCloud.ca Marketplace
- ThinkOn’s preferred reselling partners