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Amazon Web Services to invest billions in Calgary cloud hub

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is about to provide an enormous shot in the arm to Alberta’s small but...

GRAPHIC: Amazon Web Services logo. (AWS)Amazon Web Services (AWS) is about to provide an enormous shot in the arm to Alberta’s small but growing tech sector. The global cloud services and infrastructure giant will create a new AWS Canada West Region based in Calgary.

During the next 16 years, AWS says Canada West and the established Canada Central region (based in Montreal) are expected to create more than 5,000 jobs and lead to an investment of over $21 billion (all figures Cdn).

About $4.3 billion of this is slated to be spent on the Calgary-based operations – the largest single tech investment in the province’s history. In total, AWS says investment in the Calgary operation could create more than 950 new full-time equivalent jobs.

AWS did not provide any details about the breakdown of that overall investment figure (construction and infrastructure costs, salaries, materials, operations, etc.).

“With another AWS Region in Canada, customers will see even lower latency for emerging solutions like 5G-enabled applications and machine learning at the edge, and it will strengthen their ability to architect their regional infrastructure for even greater fault tolerance, resiliency and availability,” said Prasad Kalyanaraman, vice-president of infrastructure services at AWS, in Monday’s announcement. “We are excited to build world-class infrastructure to help organizations reinvent how they deliver customer solutions and fuel economic growth.”

Amazon has already broken ground on the first facility.

The AWS Canada West (Calgary) region

The AWS Canada West will enable more clients to run their applications and serve end-users from data centres located in Canada. AWS expects the infrastructure to be in operation by late 2023 or early 2024.

The region will consist of three so-called availability zones (AZs), which will join the three existing Canadian AZs operated out of the Central Canada hub.

The AZs involve infrastructure placed in separate geographic locations.

“Availability zones are located far enough from each other to support customers’ business continuity but near enough to provide low latency for high availability applications that use multiple availability zones,” Amazon says in the announcement.

“Each availability zone has independent power, cooling and physical security, and is connected through redundant, ultra-low latency networks. AWS customers focused on high availability can design their applications to run in multiple availability zones to achieve even greater fault tolerance.

“The AWS Canada West (Calgary) region will enable customers with data residency preferences to securely store data in Canada while providing even lower latency across the country and more flexibility to run applications across multiple regions.”

The AWS global structure

Globally, AWS has 81 AZs across 25 geographic regions. It has plans to launch 27 more AZs and nine more AWS regions in Australia, Canada, India, Indonesia, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

“This major investment from AWS again demonstrates that Alberta is establishing itself as a dominant player in digital technology and innovation. This multibillion-dollar data centre project in our province underscores the work being done by Invest Alberta to create jobs and diversify the economy,” said Alberta Premier Jason Kenney in the announcement.

AWS already has a substantial Canadian customer base, including companies and organizations such as Air Canada, Athabasca University, BMO Financial Group, Canada Border Services Agency, Hootsuite, Humber College, the NHL, lululemon athletica, Sun Life and more.

While data centres and the related infrastructure are hydro-intensive facilities, Amazon has two renewable energy projects under development in Alberta. They’re part of its pledge to reach net-zero carbon in all its business operations by 2040.

Amazon’s first Canadian renewable energy project is an 80 MW solar site in the County of Newell. Once complete, it will contribute an estimated 195,000 megawatt hours (MWh) of renewable energy annually to the grid, (enough to power over 18,000 homes for a year).

In June 2021, Amazon announced its largest renewable energy project in Canada — a 375 MW solar farm in Vulcan. When it comes online in 2022, the project will bring Amazon’s capacity in Canada to more than a million MWhs (enough to power more than 100,000 Canadian homes for a year).

Amazon in Canada

AWS has also launched five Amazon CloudFront edge locations in the Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal regions. Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network for data, videos, applications and APIs to users worldwide with low latency and high transfer speeds.

Amazon opened tech hubs in Toronto and Vancouver for developers, engineers, sales, marketing and business development professionals, and opened the AWS Thinkbox office in Winnipeg focused on the development of solutions and services for the creative industry.

In March 2021, Amazon Games launched a new development studio in Montreal.

Amazon’s e-commerce operation currently also has 17 fulfillment centres, six sortation centres and 35 delivery stations across the country.

It employs more than 39,500 full- and part-time employees, and has announced plans to create thousands of additional jobs in the country across its operations network.

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