Ontario city nabs IBM’s new $90M data centre

BARRIE, ONT. – IBM opened the doors to one of its most advanced and energy-efficient data centres in the world on Sept. 21 in a city just north of Toronto.

To start off, the state-of-the-art modular data centre has 25,000 square feet of raised-floor space with a 1.5 megawatt power capacity. But in the future, it could be expanded to four times this size and operate at 15 megawatts, IBM says. The company said it invested $90 million in the project.

John Lutz, president of IBM Canada, said the data centre was built mostly for customer, rather than its computing needs. According to Patrick Brown, Member of Parliament for Barrie, who attended the opening ceremony, IBM already has cloud computing clients that are using the facility.

Also present was Ontario Minister of Economic Development Brad Duguid, who spoke about the importance of innovation in the province in the face of an increasingly competitive global market. But he said IBM’s decision to build in Barrie validated the region as a technological hub. “They chose Ontario because Ontario is where the innovation is.”

The data centre’s location was chosen for many strategic reasons, IBM says, chiefly because it is located less than 100 km from IBM’s other data centre in Markham, Ont. This allows IBM to service customers with very high availability and business continuity requirements as data can be replicated across the two.

“At this point we expect, in fact, we demand, 24/7 access,” said Lutz.

Mark Schrutt, an analyst at IDC Canada, said there were clearly important reasons why the site was built on a green-field lot in Barrie.

“This site is mainly for their strategic outsourcing business. So, it serves two purposes: one is, they’re running out of capacity in their existing facilities that they’re managing for customers today,” he said.

“Number two, by building in Barrie they are differentiating themselves from being outside of the Toronto core, it gives customers an option to potentially mitigate risks, disasters, etc. that might happen in Mississauga or in Scarborough, wherever they are – this is not in Toronto. This is outside of Toronto but still close enough for data replication, etc.”

The facility is built to Level 3 resiliency. Two separate power lines run into the facility, and in case of an extended blackout, two diesel generators (with a third as backup) can power the data centre for days on their stored fuel (tens of thousands of gallons), or indefinitely if the diesel is replenished.

The design of the building as a “green” data centre includes an elaborate water cooling system that stores as much water as several Olympic swimming pools as well as architectural tweaks to maximize airflow.

The building will connect to lines of fibre optic cable running along Highway 400 from Toronto to Barrie (the line had been extended to Barrie due to the demand IBM created.). Rogers Communications Ltd. and Bell Canada will each operate two separate fibre connectivity hookups from a special room in the data centre.

Schrutt said that while the data centre is impressive as IBM’s most newest and most advanced to date, the company won’t be cornering the market any time soon.

“Other sites that are going up now should be comparable,” he said. “Primus just opened up a data centre in Markham and Rimouski (Quebec) has Telus opening one up later this month.“

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