It’s easy to think of the digital economy as a single global entity, but in reality, it’s made up of a series of interconnected regions. Each region is home to digital ecosystems, where partners and service providers connect to collaborate and exchange data.
In turn, distributed digital infrastructure has sprung up to help these ecosystems thrive. At Equinix, we call these interconnected regions digital corridors. Understanding where digital corridors form and why is key to understanding the digital economy as a whole.
In many ways, Canada is one of the most dynamic digital corridors in the world today. The ongoing expansion of digital infrastructure in the country speaks to the promise that so many businesses see here, and the sheer demand that’s fueling that growth.
This demand comes from both Canadian businesses looking to expand outside the country, and multinationals looking to enter Canada for the first time. Let’s look at a few of the industry-specific ecosystems fueling digital growth in key Canadian cities:
- Toronto is a global financial services hub, which requires rapid, secure data exchange with other financial hubs like New York and London. The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, a market study published by Equinix, forecasts that interconnection bandwidth in Toronto will grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46%, making it among the fastest-growing edge metros in the Americas.
- Montreal is a leader in sectors like telecommunications and aerospace. Like Toronto, the GXI forecasts that interconnection bandwidth in Montreal will grow at a five-year CAGR of 46%.
- Together, Toronto and Montreal are driving the future of artificial intelligence (AI). Toronto is home to one of the highest concentrations of AI startups in the world, while Montreal has the highest concentration of AI researchers in the world.
- Vancouver is home to vibrant digital ecosystems in industries like gaming, film and television production, and animation/visual effects (VFX).
- Calgary and Edmonton both play leading roles in Canada’s energy sector, driving innovations in oil & gas, wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal resources.
The future growth of these and other industry ecosystems in Canada will mean greater reliance on, and demand for, digital infrastructure and interconnection opportunities. Below, I’ll share just some of the reasons why I’m so optimistic about Canada’s digital future.
Adapting to meet today’s data sovereignty challenges
One of the major drivers of digital infrastructure expansion in Canada is the ongoing evolution of data sovereignty regulations. Jurisdictions worldwide are passing stricter laws that create new requirements for how enterprises protect personal data and where they store it. With its Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Canada has placed itself at the forefront of this trend.
For Canadian businesses, however, integrating these regulations is proving to be a challenge. In the Equinix 2023 Global Tech Trends Survey (GTTS), 60% of Canadian IT leaders said their organizations were not prepared for evolving data sovereignty regulations due to insufficient IT infrastructure. Digital service providers are stepping in to help Canadian enterprises set up what they need to overcome this complexity.
Data sovereignty and the cross-border disconnect
In the past, Canada’s massive size and low population density have made it challenging to establish digital connectivity nationwide. Many Canadian businesses have had to access digital infrastructure resources from both sides of the Canada-U.S. border to support their IT needs. For example, Vancouver is much closer to Seattle than it is to Toronto. On paper, it’s quicker and easier for businesses there to access cloud services from the U.S.
However, data sovereignty requirements now mean that moving data across the border could create regulatory risks that those businesses can’t allow for. To further complicate things, cloud services in Canada have traditionally only been available in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. If a business in Alberta needed local cloud access, it would have no choice but to look thousands of kilometers away to Toronto, despite the extremely high latency it would incur by having to move its data that far.
As many businesses have tried to navigate these difficulties, more still have recognized the opportunities—resulting in a boom in infrastructure services offered in more locations throughout Canada. The data sovereignty laws have been a major force in driving greater in-country connectivity from east and west, inspiring companies like Equinix to make major investments in supporting IT in Canada.
For example, Equinix Fabric®, the software that helps our customers interconnect their digital infrastructure and reach our digital ecosystem of partners and providers, was originally available in Toronto only; it has since expanded to Calgary, Kamloops, Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg, transforming the digital opportunity in each city.
Our customers can use Equinix Fabric to directly access the services they need. For instance, Google announced availability of Google Cloud Interconnect (GCI) in Calgary via Equinix Fabric in 2022. This gave Calgary-based businesses access to local, low-latency cloud services for the first time. This is just one example of how Canada is becoming a more interconnected country, helping businesses across industries thrive in Canada and beyond.
Canada is an attractive expansion target for global businesses
Canada’s commitment to data privacy and sovereignty and relatively stable economic and social environment are also driving many multinational businesses to consider it as an expansion location. Canada is the only North American country to receive an “adequacy decision” for all commercial organizations from the European Commission, meaning that companies can confidently move their data between Europe and Canada without having to apply additional safeguards.
This is one reason that European businesses looking to expand into North America should consider Canada the logical place to do that. They can operate across the two continents without having to change their approach or open themselves to regulatory risk or complexity.
In addition to its data sovereignty safeguards, there are many other aspects that attract foreign investment into Canada. One example is the country’s support for international trade. For instance, the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) further simplifies access to the Canadian market for European companies. The agreement also highlights the common values that Canada and the EU share around labor rights, environmental protection and sustainable development.
Canada has also taken steps to capitalize on its strategic presence on the Pacific coast by broadening economic ties to the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative (APCGI) is a series of several strategies that aim to establish Canada as the primary gateway between Asia and North America for trade, investment and cultural exchange.
From a digital infrastructure perspective, it’s clear these strategies are paying dividends. In 2022, Google announced the construction of Topaz, the first subsea cable system ever to directly link Canada with Asia. When operational, Topaz will connect Vancouver with Mie and Ibaraki in Japan. Google says the new cable will help deliver low-latency access to its services while also increasing capacity for network operators on both sides of the Pacific. Cable investments like this one will bring Canada and Asia closer together, creating new business opportunities in the process.
One example of an APAC business that saw the opportunity—and the need—to expand into Canada is Tape Ark, an Equinix customer that specializes in tape-to-cloud migration. Tape Ark had ambitions to expand outside its home country of Australia, but like so many other enterprises, it faced complexity around data sovereignty in different jurisdictions. One of its customers, a large Canadian mining company, needed to migrate tens of petabytes of data into the cloud without that data leaving Canada.
Tape Ark solved this challenge with the help of Equinix. Using our Equinix IBX® colocation data center in Montreal, the company was able to establish a digital presence in Canada quickly, without needing to invest in physical infrastructure. From there, the company used Equinix Fabric to get the cloud connectivity it needed. Tape Ark can now connect directly to cloud hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in a matter of minutes. Since the Equinix facility offers direct proximity to cloud on-ramps, Tape Ark can also keep latency low. As a result, the company can migrate even extremely large data sets without unnecessary delays.
Canadian businesses need to invest in the right digital infrastructure…
…and that means looking to partner with companies that make their own investment a priority. For example, at Equinix we’ve worked to become the digital infrastructure company that Canadian business can count on as a strategic, global support system. In 2020, we invested over $1 billion CAD to acquire 13 data centers in eight markets across the country. Our footprint of data centers in Canada stretches from Saint John in the east to Vancouver in the west, and includes major metros in between. We continue to invest in new facilities to keep up with growing demand. In fact, we recently opened a second data center in Montreal.
With our initial billion-dollar investment and all the strategic expansions we’ve announced since, we’re bringing the best of Equinix to Canada and the best of Canada to the world. And we’re just getting started.
Our efforts in Canada have been recognized by analysts such as IDC. In the IDC MarketScape: Canadian Datacenter Colocation and Interconnection Services 2022 Vendor Assessment, Equinix was named a Leader.
“IDC sees Equinix’s key differentiators in the Canadian market being its national and global reach and its service offering innovation.”
Read this excerpt from the IDC MarketScape report to learn more about key considerations for deploying digital infrastructure in Canada, and what makes Equinix a Leader in the country.
 Interconnection bandwidth is a measure, calculated in bits/sec, of the capacity provisioned to privately and directly exchange traffic between two parties, inside carrier-neutral colocation data centers.
 Montréal: Artificial intelligence serving the common good, Montréal International.
 The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
 EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), European Commission.
 Bikash Koley, Introducing Topaz — the first subsea cable to connect Canada and Asia, Google Cloud Blog, April 6, 2022.
 Jason Bremner, IDC MarketScape: Canadian Datacenter Colocation and Interconnection Services 2022 Vendor Assessment, IDC, November 2022, Excerpt of IDC #CA49811122.