I was recently asked to describe Canada in one word, and what resonated most with me was possibilities. In my role, I have the privilege of meeting with organizations of all types and sizes across our vast country. I’m always inspired by the diversity of our population, the breadth of our industries and the incredible innovation and creativity they deliver with AWS services. With the launch of our AWS Canada West (Calgary) Region, our second Region in Canada, I know that it will enable greater possibilities for new and existing customers across the country.

Calgary is more than a location. This milestone marks a significant leap forward in our commitment to delivering transformative technology that will reshape the landscape of possibilities for our customers in Canada.

We launched our first Region, the AWS Canada (Central) Region, in December 2016 in Montreal. AWS has a long-standing history of technology investment and helping drive digital transformation in Canada. In fact, from 2016 to 2021, we invested over CA$2.57 billion in Canada, in establishing and running our infrastructure Region in Montreal. These investments will continue, with up to CA$24.8 billion by 2037 in both our existing Montreal Region and in the now live Calgary Region.

This investment contributes to our country’s economic growth, in addition to supporting thousands of local businesses like Sun Life, RBC, Calgary Sports and Entertainment, Nutrien, SECURE, STEMCELL Technologies, KOHO Financial and TELUS who use AWS to transform their industries. It also enables public sector organizations like AlayaCare, the College of Physicians and Surgeons Alberta (CPSA), the University of Alberta, WELL Health, and several groups within the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces to enhance the services delivered to Canadians with AWS.

Data Sovereignty and Enterprise Grade Security Changes the Game for Most Organizations

We’ve always believed that for the cloud to realize its full potential it would be essential that customers have control over their data. Giving customers this sovereignty has been a priority for AWS since the very beginning when we were the only major cloud provider to allow customers to control the location and movement of their data. One of our many reasons for bringing a second Region to Canada is to empower our customers with the choice to rely on one or two distinct Canadian Regions, and offer them robust in-country disaster recovery plans. Our core infrastructure is built to satisfy the security requirements for the military, global banks, and other high-sensitivity organizations. With 143 security standards and compliance certifications, we are helping customers satisfy compliance requirements around the globe.

CI Financial is a diversified global asset and wealth management corporation operating primarily in Canada, Australia, and the United States. The company manages and advises on approximate $420.7 billion in client assets. “We moved to AWS to improve our customer service, optimize business performance, and promote company-wide growth through the acquisition of new clients,” said Ravi Kishore, director, Cloud Platform Engineering & Operations, CI Financial. “With our strategic business applications now running on AWS, we’re developing new products faster than before, and leveraging our data to drive business decisions – continuously adapting to our customers’ evolving needs and enhancing their experience. The new AWS Region in Calgary will help us further advance our operations with real-time analytics, while keeping all data in-country.” 

Levio is an international IT consulting services firm and an AWS Advance Tier Services Partner. “Levio has been working for several years to deliver a deep range of AWS Cloud migration and implementation services to our Canadian client base,” said François-Bernard Mathieu, Partner at Levio. “The AWS Canada West Region coming online is a critical enabler that is very well aligned with the strategic initiatives of many of our clients in the public, telecom and financial services sectors.”

Flexibility Allows Canadian Startups to Hyperscale

Since the very beginning, AWS has leveled the playing field so that startups in college dorms and garages could access the same cloud infrastructure and transformation tools as the largest enterprises. This access to infrastructure and technology continues to be a key advantage here in Canada, where micro, small and medium businesses make up 98% of all organizations and support about 60% of our GDP. The launch of our second Region means endless possibilities for our current and future customers, regardless of their size, and more options to run their workloads—including using our AWS Regions globally, too. 

For example, Canadian decarbonization technology scale-up, BrainBox AI, uses several AWS Regions around the world to help keep up with the global demand for sustainable solutions. “When we launched in May 2019, the company had 12 employees and managed 15 buildings,” said Jean-Simon Venne, Co-founder and CTO of BrainBox AI. “With AWS, BrainBox AI could expand to new regions and quickly onboard new buildings. Now, in 2023, our team has grown to over 170 people and the company manages hundreds of buildings worldwide 24/7. We could never reproduce that scalability on our own. AWS is part of our secret recipe.”

Canadian start-up, Good Chemistry, uses AWS to run high-power compute (HPC), machine learning (ML), and quantum computing workloads to affordably and accurately predict chemical properties that impact industries ranging from drug discovery, to clean energy, and battery innovation. For Arman Zaribafiyan, Founder and CEO of Good Chemistry, “the second AWS Region is going to supercharge (our) capabilities to reach wider adoption of HPC on AWS for material design innovations—for a healthier, cleaner, and more sustainable world.” 

Enhanced Performance Improves Services to Canadians and Fuels the New Era of AI

The improved performance enabled by the new Region is another key factor in advancing organizations into their next echelons, and one which is vital to organizations like Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). The agency has responsibilities for natural resources, energy, minerals and metals, forests, earth sciences, mapping, remote sensing, and monitoring natural hazards. The high availability of their seismic monitoring systems across the country is critical to protecting Canadians and their property from earthquakes. NRCan’s Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) will leverage the AWS Canada West (Calgary) Region to assist the agency in providing seconds to tenths-of-seconds of warning of a major earthquake starts, before strong shaking starts, and help improve the quality of life of Canadians. 

Air Canada, a founding member of Star Alliance, the world's most comprehensive air transportation network, is Canada's largest airline, and the country’s flag carrier with scheduled service directly to more than 180 airports in Canada, the United States and internationally on six continents. Air Canada is using AWS to build innovative digital experiences for travelers. “The introduction of AWS's new region in Western Canada reinforces the robust infrastructure that’s essential for modern enterprises," said Carlos Faxas, Managing Director at Air Canada. "In our pursuit of digital excellence, the reliability and scalability offered by AWS are cornerstones of our strategy. While this advancement bolsters a wide spectrum of technology-driven initiatives, it also complements Air Canada's ongoing journey to innovate and enhance our customer experience through cutting-edge digital solutions.”

Recently, the world has been captivated by artificial intelligence (AI) and its boundless possibilities. In fact, AWS and Access Partnership recently released a study that found 83 percent of Canadian businesses believe they will be using AI solutions across their organization in the next five years. Though AI isn’t new for AWS, we’re constantly innovating in the space, making it available and accessible to anyone who wants to use it. 

The flexibility offered by the cloud is the most accessible way to experiment with AI and machine learning (ML). Like our CEO Adam Selipsky says “there is no AI without the cloud”. And as more organizations look to harness the power of AI and ML, being able to leverage data securely and with low latency is critical to success. 

The University of Calgary is a top research university and Canada’s leading start-up creator. “At the University of Calgary, we are committed to equipping our researchers, students, and staff with the tools they need to create new knowledge and research that will change the world,” said Dr. Robert Thompson, PhD, Associate Vice-President (Research) and Director of Research Services at the University of Calgary. “By working with AWS, we can offer our faculty, postdocs, staff and students access to cutting-edge virtual learning environments, AI, ML, data and analytics, and HPC technology that helps accelerate discovery. Already, AWS has helped expand our research capacity in areas ranging from biomedical engineering, to geomatics, to quantum computing. Having this new region in close proximity will allow us to further harness the tremendous potential of the AWS cloud and advance our research and innovation ecosystem.”

I often like to say that innovation is the only sustainable competitive advantage. In 2021, 84 percent of Canadian businesses said the cloud made it easier to innovate and bring new products to market. In that same year, AWS supported 380,000 businesses across the country, adding $8.5B to Canada’s economy

Some Final Words

Our commitment to Canada includes investing in people. This summer, we brought the country’s first AWS Fiber Optic Fusion Splicing Training course to Calgary –at no cost to participants –with graduates already reporting employment in local and national fiber optic installation and repair companies. Since announcing our plans to launch a Region out West, we teamed up with local organizations to introduce AWS re/Start in Calgary to offer a free 12-week program that provides people with cloud computing skills and connects them with potential local employers. Since 2017, we have trained more than 200,000 Canadians on cloud computing and technical skills. And we’re not stopping there! We recently launched AI Ready, a free AI skills training initiative for both students and workers to help Canadians curb the AI skills gap

As we now embark on this exhilarating journey, we will continue to unlock new possibilities, redefine performance standards and fortify the foundations of digital security. 

And as Amazon’s esteemed VP and CTO Dr. Werner Vogel often says “The future is here, and it’s brimming with possibilities. Now, go build!”