Several of the country’s major telecom companies – as well as several independent firms – are constructing new data centres or have significant expansion plans on the books.
Floor-to-ceiling black cabinets, shielding row upon row of blinking servers, sprawl across thousands of square feet in these multimillion-dollar facilities.
The amount of digital information generated by governments and private companies alike is growing exponentially. That’s creating demand for reliable storage solutions at the same time that many organizations are facing costly upgrades to their own legacy IT infrastructure.
This has local companies seeing many business opportunities in data services.
Granite Networks opened its $15-million, 8,000-square-foot facility on April 2 with the belief that cloud services still have a long way to grow.
The company has customers that are concerned about the cost, time and complexity of maintaining servers themselves, and have decided to hand the reins over to Granite instead, says CEO Rainer Paduch.
Granite has signed clients from a variety of sectors including health care, technology and government, both locally and internationally.
Services the data centre provides include co-location (meaning putting several customers onto the same server) as well as dedicated servers for clients with higher demands. The firm also plans to launch cloud-based computing to attract smaller clients into the facility.
“Our customers are concerned about their data integrity and need reliability,” Mr. Paduch says.
“They find that running their own data centres is becoming too costly, and are looking for a high-quality supplier who can augment their own technical experts.”
Bell is completing the first phase of its data centre construction in Ottawa. It will open a 60,000-square-foot, $100-million facility on Jan. 1, 2013, seeking to cater to top-tier clients in government and the public sector seeking high security and reliability.
The two primary services of the data centre will be co-location as well as “managed services” such as hosting, network storage and cloud infrastructure.
The second phase, adding on another 60,000 square feet, will open subject to demand, which Bell says comes generally from the public sector.
“The government is challenged with running (its) data centres and keeping up with technological changes,” says Strahan McCarten, Bell’s Toronto-based director of product management, hosting and data centre services.
He says many server systems were installed 15 or 20 years ago, when the technology first came on the market. In many cases, this means it’s time for an upgrade.
The consolidation of IT management under the new Shared Services government department is also driving part of the desire for upgrades.
Other clients speak of the time their office had an outage, or the time they were told power would be shut off to the building for a weekend and they couldn’t access their data.
“It’s just a skills and expertise issue,” he says. “When customers come to our facility, they get expertise.”
Primus Canada has two data centres in Ottawa. The company currently has 30,000 square feet of space in the region and is expecting to add another data centre to Ottawa in the next six to 12 months.
Features of the data centres include redundant cooling, biometric security and a diesel generator capable of keeping power going for up to 24 hours in the case of an electricity outage.
The company’s core offering is data server hosting, as well as a managed service product for Internet services such as hosting.
Demand is coming from companies – as well as public-sector organizations – that want to upgrade their aging servers. Primus is also seeing firms move more into mobile offices requiring 24-7 access.
“Now that everyone is spread all over the world and working remotely, you don’t want your core infrastructure to go down. Everyone is looking for 100-per-cent uptime, which is hard to achieve in your (office) environment,” says A.J. Byers, Primus’s executive vice-president of business services.
While other service providers in Ottawa tend to house their data centres in separate areas from their other facilities, Storm Internet hosts its data right in the centre of its 16,000-square-foot building, which is just off Maitland Avenue in Nepean.
About half of the building is devoted to “production” space, with controlled access. Products include shared hosting, virtual machines, co-location and managed servers (the hardware for which is owned and entirely managed by Storm).
The company has about 250 commercial clients in Ottawa, mostly small to medium-sized businesses.
Storm has not seen an explosion in demand, but the firm says it has been steadily growing.
“A lot of people are taking a look at their data sources and how much they rely on them,” says Storm CEO Dave Chiswell.
“They want to move (their server) from the closet in the office with a fan blowing on it to keep it cool, into our environment.”