The investment of $685 million over two years is the largest ever made in Quebec by Microsoft. It is part of a global offensive by the American giant to become the undisputed leader in AI applications. For us, it is also a way of attracting the famous CAQ digital identity project to its servers.
“We believe that this will be a very attractive opportunity for the governments of Canada, federal and provincial, to use technology to simplify the services they offer to their citizens,” summarized in an interview with THE Duty the president of Microsoft Canada, Chris Barry.
The opening of new cloud hosting centers in Quebec by Microsoft could help implement the famous digital health file of Quebec Minister of Health, Christian Dubé. Earlier this summer, Mr. Dubé indicated that he had found a supplier to program this file. This is the American company Epic Systems Corporation. Epic Systems has already developed cloud-based software for managing digital health records. This software is based on Microsoft servers.
Microsoft Canada still thinks bigger than that. Its president cites the case of the city of Kelowna, British Columbia. The municipal administration recently put an automated tool online that speeds up obtaining a construction or renovation permit for its residents, since it is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A civil servant in the flesh bone gives final approval, but the robot makes sure the right forms are completed and everything appears to be in order.
Everyone saves time and money. “We think this kind of application can make governments more efficient,” says Chris Barry.
Another proof that Microsoft Canada is carrying out a seduction operation with governments: the impact figures published in the wake of its investment announcement. The American giant has 1,000 employees in Quebec, but says it indirectly generates up to 57,000 jobs in total, for a weight in Quebec’s GDP equivalent to 6.7 billion.
AI everywhere, everywhere
The four new data centers that Microsoft plans to build around Quebec City by 2025 will also allow it to offer more digital services to its other customers, consumers and businesses. Microsoft has made several announcements in recent weeks regarding the integration of artificial intelligence into its products. The most apparent is the Copilot application, which has just appeared on the taskbar of its Windows 11 operating system.
But there are others. A week before announcing its investment in Quebec, Microsoft revealed how it planned to make its data centers located all over the world more welcoming for artificial intelligence applications of all kinds.
Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, was categorical on stage: nothing has been as important in the last 40 years as the emergence of AI as we see it today. “It’s bigger than the advent of PC,” he said. It’s bigger than the mobile. This will be a bigger change than the arrival of the Internet, by far. »
Moreover, Microsoft also took advantage of its conference on its new technologies called Ignite to present two new computer chips. Their task is to optimize the operation of artificial intelligence applications on computer servers such as those hosted in its data centers.
The first chip, called Azure Maia, was tailor-made for OpenAI’s AI tools, including ChatGPT. The second, called Azure Cobalt, was designed to accelerate parallel computing tasks.
Greener servers in Canada
Despite the Quebec government’s disinterest in energy-intensive computer data centers, Microsoft is delighted with its expansion in the province. The company calculates that a data center in Canada produces 93% less greenhouse gases than a similar center installed elsewhere in the world. This is a good incentive for the company, which has set itself the target of being carbon neutral by 2030, then becoming carbon negative in order to eliminate the equivalent of all carbon from the atmosphere by 2050 that the company has issued since its founding in 1975.
“So it’s very important for us to invest in greener data centers,” summarizes Chris Barry, who understands that energy demand is becoming a more complex issue than it was just three years ago. This is why its Quebec servers will reduce their electricity consumption during peak hours. “We want to offer digital services in Quebec while remaining a responsible corporate citizen. »