GCDCS21 – at a glance

GCDCS21: Digital Innovation in the Next Normal is back at MIP, and everywhere online.

The Great Canadian Data Centre Symposium (GCDCS21) is back, taking the “next step” in delivery of the conference experience you have come to expect from hosts InsightaaS, Fyelabs, McMaster University, and the DC Foresight community. Please join our growing community of interest in all things data centre/IT service delivery on December 2nd for GCDCS21: Digital Innovation in the Next Normal.

This year marks the 4th annual meeting of The Great Canadian Data Centre Symposium. Launched in 2018 through a partnership between the Computing Infrastructure Research Centre at McMaster University (now development services provider Fyelabs) and Toronto-based IT analyst firm, InsightaaS, the conference was designed as a learning event aimed at sharing best practices in data centre operation and management across both business and academic communities. With this unique approach, and the McMaster Innovation Park in Hamilton, Ontario as its physical centre, the event has managed to draw speakers and sponsors from Canada, the US, and Europe, and has attracted a global audience for engagement with thought leaders on the operation, management, and the delivery of critical infrastructure services.

Due to safety concerns associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, GCDCS20 was delivered as a virtual event only. GCDCS21 will be presented via a hybrid model that combines presentations from a small cadre of speaker/delegates who are on-site at the McMaster Innovation Park, input from speakers in remote locations who are unable to travel, and real time broadcast of the event via a “studio live” stream to a virtual audience. Organizers are calling this hybrid approach the next step in the “Next Normal” as it allows delegates to participate in the way they are most comfortable – onsite or online – while maintaining Covid-19 safety protocols. It has been enabled by the ready availability of a range of IT delivery service capabilities – developed by an industry that has experienced huge growth throughout the pandemic, and that serves as the subject of our conference discussions!

Despite externally imposed delivery challenges, GCDCS21 promises to be the best event yet. Last year’s experience with a virtual only platform encouraged organizers to reach out to an even broader audience than was the case with events past, and to engage with speakers wherever their location. GCDCS21 is especially pleased to welcome South African co-founders of Coronet Blockchain who will provide a lunchtime presentation on developing blockchain capabilities to address food security issues in Sub-Saharan Africa. And we are privileged this year to host new and returning innovators in the data centre industry from across Canada, the US, and Europe.

InsightaaS is also pleased to welcome InsightaaS readers to this year’s event: click here to register for a free delegate pass (waiving the $100 registration) to GCDCS21: Digital Innovation in the Next Normal.

Here’s an overview of this year’s agenda:

Welcome and greetings from Fred Eisenberger, Mayor of the City of Hamilton. (8:15am)

Eugene Roman
Eugene Roman, visionary Canadian IT leader

Morning keynote, The 202Xs: The fast rise of the digital age, will be delivered by the former CIO of Canadian Tire, OpenText and Bell Canada and current executive in residence at the Schulich School of Business Eugene Roman. (8:40am) Known for challenging conventional thinking on IT, Eugene will focus on the paradox of modern online communications.



Digital Transformation: In Pursuit of Innovation (9:30) Featuring Andrew Eppich (managing director, Equinix Canada), Jason Hood (CTO – field, Stratascale), Sanj Srikrishnan (senior global solutions architect, Equinix), Joe Belinsky (VP IT, Revera Inc.), and Olu Rowaiye (segment marketing, Equinix), this panel will consider digital transformation from a core/facilities lens that extends from the edge, to the cloud core, to the ecosystem.

All-Star Plenary Panel (10:40am) A highlight of each GCDCS program, this year’s ASPP features 6-8 experts, ranging from CTOs to quantum computing experts, who will engage with panel moderator Michael O’Neil (lead research analyst – cybersecurity, Stratascale) on technology’s impact and window into the future. This year’s panel includes Paul Cooper (president, Canada, Technology Integration Group), Cheryl Rodenfels (CTO- field, Stratascale), Andrew Eppich (managing director, Equinix Canada), Rocco Alonzi (AVP, data centre operations and governance, Manulife), Peter Gross (chairman, board of directors, Virtual Power Systems), and Michele Mosca (cofounder and CEL, evolutionQ).

eMasimini: Technology for Social Good (12:15). Join Coronet Blockchain cofounders Pretty Kubyane and Shadrack Kubyane as they outline how blockchain can be used to provide market access to the largely female mass of smallholder farmers who account for the majority of African agricultural productivity and yet are excluded from existing market structures. And learn how data generated by the system can affect a surprisingly large stakeholder group.

Pretty Kubyane, cofounder, Coronet Blockchain
Pretty Kubyane, cofounder, Coronet Blockchain
Shadrack Kubyane, cofounder, Coronet Blockchain

The Sustainable Present (1:05pm). On the heels of COP26, this panel discussion will reinforce the urgency of creating tools and technologies to expand sustainable innovation in the data centre and beyond. What is Net Zero in a data centre context and how do we get there? Panelists François Sterin (chief industrial officer, OVHcloud), Jim Kalogiros (national director Secure Power Canada, Schneider Electric), Peter Gross (chairman, board of directors, Virtual Power Systems), and Susana Kass (member of the Climate 50 leaders in data centre and cloud, and data centre advisor on SDG to the UN) will join facilitator Mary Allen (CCO, InsightaaS) to discuss how we might fast forward sustainability goals to the present.

Above and Beyond: The Contemporary Delivery Environment (2:15pm). IT service delivery is now hugely capable and increasingly complex. Facilities and IT service delivery managers must be prepared to extend beyond core infrastructure to the edge and in a growing number of use cases to IoT devices in the field. This panel, featuring Roy Hart (CIO, British Columbia Institute of Technology), Benoît Esvelin (corporate development DCaaS, OVHcloud), Herb Villa (senior applications engineer, Rittal), and facilitated by Suvojit Ghosh (CEO Fyelabs), will delve into new architectures that address the growing trend towards data ubiquity and the need for data centre everywhere.

Alex Benay, government lead Microsoft Azure and former CIO, Government of Canada
Alex Benay, government lead Microsoft Azure and former CIO, Government of Canada

Everything Changed Overnight: How Leading in the Digital Age is Different (3:30pm). We conclude the formal portion of GCDCS21 with a keynote presentation from Alex Benay, former CIO of the Government of Canada and now government lead for Microsoft’s Azure platform. Alex is a recognized innovator who will draw on his extensive public and private sector experience to outline how digital management imperatives have intensified during the global pandemic. He will provide a top ten list of management strategies for the “next normal” digital age.

We invite in person delegates to celebrate the return of the GCDCS21 program to the “next” level of “normal” with a cocktail reception that promises to be another ‘first’ in IT conference delivery for InsightaaS, Fyelabs, and the DC Foresight community.

InsightaaS would like to extend a special thanks our sponsors. Without the support of Equinix, Stratascale, Technology Integration Group, OVHcloud, Schneider Electric, Rittal, and community partners 24×7 Canada and DevOps Toronto, GCDCS21 would not be possible.


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