In a few months, that rough opening will be turned into a viewing window, allowing visitors to the former Abbott Laboratories on Hazeldean Road to see inside the largest high-end data centre in eastern Ontario.
Approximately $15 million will be spent on the facility, filling the room with more than 260 seven-foot cabinets and rows of blinking servers, surrounded by a four-foot corridor for extra security.
Mr. Mackenzie, the president and CEO of Granite Networks, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his iPhone to explain why investors are pouring millions of dollars into the project before it generates any revenues.
The exploding volume of online data, fuelled in part by the proliferation of smartphones, has Granite and major telecom companies banking on businesses growing tired of endlessly upgrading their IT capacity.
"You cannot put your infrastructure in a closet anymore," Mr. Mackenzie said.
While Granite is marketing itself as a way for companies to avoid the capital and maintenance costs of operating their own assets, the Kanata firm also has its eye on cashing in on the federal government's efforts to consolidate its IT portfolio.
Specifically, the federal government wants to reduce its more than 300 data centres to fewer than 20. Granite's vice-president of sales, Peter McGillvray, says his company's proximity to government operations in central Ottawa will give his company an advantage over other local operators, as he expects solicitations to include a requirement for data centres to be within a certain distance of government clients.
Competitors in the area include Bell, which is building an 82,000-square-foot data centre in Buckingham, Que., expected to open in late 2012. The telecom giant says it's signed three contracts for use of the space, totalling $100 million.
Primus Canada, meanwhile, has two facilities in Ottawa totalling 30,000 square feet and plans to break ground on a third in 2012. The company holds approximately 60 to 70 per cent of Ottawa's mid-market sector for multi-tenant data services.
Executive vice-president A.J. Byers says he's "absolutely aware that there are some competitors coming to town," but adds he still sees Primus's biggest barrier to growth being companies choosing to keep servers in-house.
Back on Hazeldean Road, Granite is financed by the owners' friends and family, as well as angel investors. Mr. Mackenzie says the company has enough cash to last another year, but chief operating officer Jason van Gaal adds there is enough interest among potential customers to sell out the facility "three-and-a-half times."
The firm says it will hit its break-even point when it starts utilizing between 10 and 20 per cent of its capacity.
Nevertheless, the company's co-owners concede data centres are a risky venture, considering the large amounts of upfront capital investments required before a single dollar of revenue is generated.
And while the centre can access electricity from two separate power grids, and is backed up by generators to reduce the chances of it ever going offline, it is nevertheless a perilous proposition to build one's reputation on continuous uptime.
"You only get one chance to make a first impression," says Mr. van Gaal.
Granite Networks is building a tier 3 data centre, an industry classification on a four-point scale. A tier 3 facility is generally defined by:
» Redundant capacity components and multiple independent distribution paths serving the computer equipment.
» All IT equipment is dual powered.
» Planned maintenance can be performed by using the redundant capacity components and distribution paths to safely work on the remaining equipment.
» High security.
Source: The Uptime Institute