Microsoft Canadian customers, partners begin operational preview of Canadian Azure cloud

Azure is the first Microsoft solution to be available as a preview from Microsoft datacenters in Toronto and Quebec City. General availability is scheduled for Q2, with Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online to follow shortly after that.

On Monday, Microsoft Canada formally announced that its Canadian data centres, which it announced last June to considerable fanfare at a media event in Toronto, are now delivering an operational preview of Azure cloud services to select customers and partners.

Phil Sorgen MSFT 300

Phil Sorgen, Microsoft’s global channel chief

“With this, we officially go into customer preview for data centres in Canada, which is an important milestone for us,” said Phil Sorgen, Microsoft’s global channel chief.

Microsoft’s decision to establish two data centres in Canada, in Toronto and Quebec City, is an important element of their cloud strategy in Canada. Microsoft is admittedly somewhat of a latecomer to making this concession to data sovereignty in Canada, as Canada became the 20th country worldwide to have a local Microsoft data centre. Many of the others, however, had specific laws and regulatory requirements to have resident data centres. Canada does not – notwithstanding some public perception to the contrary. Many organizations in Canada increasingly desired such an option however, and that preference grew to the point where Microsoft concluded that resident data centres in Canada were a sound investment.

That preference was strong among Microsoft’s partners in Canada as well, responding to issues raised by their own customers. Jason Brommet, Microsoft Canada’s channel chief, told ChannelBuzz that the issue of when Canadian data centres would be available had been the top question he got from partners before the data centres were formally announced.

Jason Brommet

Jason Brommet, Microsoft Canada channel chief

“This is a transformative moment for us in Canada,” to have all our cloud services operations served from Canada,” Brommet said. “This has been a journey for us and we are really excited by it. The ability to build new business models and new revenue streams has never been more important for channel partners than it is right now.”

Brommet indicated that the preview was fairly large.

“We have been very pleasantly surprised with the response,” he said. “There are hundreds involved in the preview, with a fairly equal representation between customers and our partner ecosystem.”

The Azure preview, which was originally scheduled to be operational by the end of 2015, is running a little behind schedule. The plan is for the launch Azure from the Canadian cloud regions into general availability to take place in Q2 2016. Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online are scheduled to follow shortly after that.