IBM opens Barrie, Ont. Leadership Data Centre

IBM Data Centre Opening

IBM Canada president John Lutz (right) with local, provincial, and federal officials at the opening of the Barrie, Ont. data centre

IBM officials got together with local, provincial, and federal politicians in Barrie, Ont. to open Big Blue’s new Leadership Data Centre there – the 17th IBM-run data centre in Canada, and the first in its series of Leadership Data Centres in Canada.

The facility offers 100,000 square feet of raised floor in four 25,000 modules. Currrently, only the first is active, giving IBM room to grow for the foreseeable future. It’s a $90 miliion investment, on the heels of $75 million investment in Canadian data centres in 2011.

Barrie was chosen, IBM said, for a variety reasons – power supply, water supply, and its close-enough-but-not-too-close location to IBM’s other major Ontario data centre near its Markham, Ont. headquarters. “Barrie is 60 km as the crow flies from IBM’s existing data centres in Markham,” the company’s Fact Sheet notes – close enough for a very high-speed, low-latency network connection for redundancy purposes, but far enough that it’s unlikely to get zapped by the same natural disaster.

IBM Canada president John Lutz said “leadership” is used in the name for a purpose – to qualify as a leadership data centre in Big Blue’s parlance, a data centre has to “build on our decades of data centre management experience,” as well as including the latest and greatest in green and space management technologies.

“This site is integral to the evolution of our data centre strategy in Canada and around the world, Lutz said.

The company has two other North American leadership data centres – in North Carolina and Colorado – but Barrie is its first “from-scratch” Leadership Data Centre on the continent. The two American facilities are older locations that have been retrofitted to reach the Leadership category.

The company says the new facility uses 60 per cent less energy compared to previous-generation data centres of the same size, mostly because of advances in heat management. Cooling is always the biggest problem for any data centre of any scale, and the Barrie facility combats it by using a system that uses water chilled in outdoor pools to help cool down the hot air coming off the raised floors. By using this “free cooling” solution, IBM Canada estimates it will be able to run without mechanical chillers 220 days of the year, and get another 1110 days of running its chillers at less than full capacity. Only 45 days of the year, it says, will it have to crank all of its chillers on all the way to keep racks on the floor at the optimal temperature.

Lutz told that while in the past, such a facility wouldn’t necessarily mean a lot to the company’s community of business partners, that is not the case today. With the race for solution providers to roll their own hosted solutions, and introduce SaaS and cloud offerings, Lutz said he would expect to count quite a few IBM business partners as tenants. The company is also heavily promoting its backup and recovery services from the data centre, and will be turning to the channel to market and resell those services, or to use them to backstop their own backup/recovery offerings. It’s all part of a fundamental change in how IBM and its partners work together, he suggested, particularly as the company seeks to raise its profile amongst managed service providers and other local solution providers.