We’re primed for cloud computing, says Gartner

A Gartner analyst thinks Canada’s natural resources and cooler temperature can help it take advantage of the growing cloud computing trend to provide services and Web applications.

The country has an estimated server installed base of more than one million units, and in the next five years, the market will demonstrate incremental growth typical of a mature market, said Jeffrey Hewitt, vice-president of research with Stamford, Conneticut-based Gartner Inc.

“But is there a way in Canada for that to be boosted beyond that standard incremental projection?” asked Hewitt.

He thinks the country’s years of investment in hydro electric power facilities and ambient temperatures will enable data centres to be powered and subsequently cooled. And, he said, the concerns around power and cooling are only getting bigger as Web content grows with video sharing sites like YouTube. Therefore, the country can take its hydro electric infrastructure to “another level” and extend it to the Web, said Hewitt.

Also facilitating green data center growth is the emergence of server technology like blades and mobile data centres in shipping containers, he noted.

The opportunity, said Hewitt, lies in the federal and provincial governments encouraging Canadian businesses to build data centres in areas where hydro electric power abounds and facilities can be cooled naturally with ambient air.

There’s an economic advantage to this. Often, people tend to look to places like Iceland to build data centres that can grant adequate power and cooling, said Hewitt, but distance is a hurdle when undersea fiber cables need to be built. Canada can target the U.S., given its close proximity, as a “potentially large customer,” said Hewitt.

Such partnerships with U.S.-based companies, he said, can help grow Canada’s infrastructure, job market, and ultimately, its knowledge base around cloud-based computing infrastructure.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google Inc. has been growing its Web-based services primarily through search and content, but Hewitt believes there is the potential for other applications and services on the cloud. And what is more, the server market is going to grow regardless.

Hewitt doesn’t anticipate fuelling data centres with natural resources will be a difficult concept for businesses to grasp. The country’s investment in building out hydro electric facilities has been well received, and “I see that as a really good sign.”

“Those kinds of initiatives take time and effort,” said Hewitt, referring to initiatives in Brazil to build a fuel-independent infrastructure that today doesn’t require the import of fossil fuels.

Governments, he said, can play a role and really drive such initiatives. “In the long run, [Canada] can build out a significant set of advantages in providing these services and offering a base for this kind of activity.”

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