In town for the ground breaking of the new data center at 371 Gough Rd in Markham, Sungard Availability Services Vice President and Product Manager Joe Sullivan spoke with us about a few things, including why the Greater Toronto Area is attracting data centers.
Sungard already has two in Mississauga, not geographically dispersed, totaling 100,000 sq ft, with about 60,000 sq ft of raised floor data center.“We have a better economic model in Canada, and especially in Toronto”, he said. “It’s the number one market in terms of managed services. In the USA most want us to co-locate. They haven’t grasped the cloud and managed service economics.”
The case for Markham is that it isn’t downtown Toronto… far enough away, yet not too far.
“Many customers don’t want to be in the central business district,” said Sullivan. “There is some hassle with traffic and other issues, and based on recovery services our financial customers don’t want to be there for business risk reasons. If there’s an event in an area it’s usually in the central business district.”
There’s a lot of tech in the Markham-Richmond Hill area, and many choose to call it Silicon Valley North.
“Clearly the cost of property is much more economical for us. We also look for access to technical resources, and fiber network availability. We looked at other suburbs, however Markham had everything we wanted.”
The new center has 20,000 sq ft of raised floor, and 2500Kw of power. Sungard expects that’s sufficient to meet customer demand for at least two years. Expansion capability allows for growth to almost five times that size. It’s a multi-million dollar investment.
Some of that investment comes from Digital Realty; a REIT that buys land, performs construction, and then leases out either a shell or a completely developed data center.
“We’re IT operators, and they’re a leasing agent realty company,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been with them for 10 years… in fact we built a center in Carlstadt NJ, that’s the same size as our new one in Markham. It’s a great partnership.”
The firm already has an end user recovery facility in Calgary… a single customer facility in Winnipeg… two existing data centers in Mississauga… two end user recovery centers in Toronto… two end user recovery facilities in Montreal… one end user recovery center in Quebec City… and now the new one in Markham.
Data centers require economies of scale, whereas end user recovery facilities are requirement-driven. They’re more reactive to immediate needs. Data centers are more strategic.
So why Markham?
“The number one answer is the demand is there. Our customers are concerned with disaster recovery, more so than co-location. It’s a growing tech market, and Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America.”
A second reason is end user devices, how data is being driven to those devices, how companies must be more IT-centric than even 10 years ago.
Applications are driving more data, and the general increase in how companies use data to make decisions is driving more complex use of information.
Regulations also play a part on the financial and health care side.
“Mix them all into a pot and it’s a demand we haven’t kept up with,” Sullivan said. “We’re selling our capability faster than we thought. Hence the new expansion 50Km away, for customers that want to be in the GTA, yet not right next door to each other.”
Typically a customer will set up one production environment in Mississauga and another in Markham, and run each at approximately 40% capacity. Any issues fail over to the other facility, allowing the customers to continue operating at the same rate.
“We sell managed security, firewall, VPN, IDS, IPS, and partner with Alert Logic, IBM, and McAfee to provide those services to our customers,” said Sullivan. “We are not a wholesale co-host provider, although some of our customers think that.”
Sungard also does disaster recovery. A firm may want to establish production in Markham, and buy an on-demand recovery solution.
“It doesn’t have to be the zombacopalypse; it can be a broken water main,” he joked. “In some cases we provide seats for employees, with desktop, access to data and applications, and phone systems so they can continue operating during a disaster.”
“Sinkholes don’t tend to be a disruption for our business,” Sullivan said. “They typically take out telecommunications and our customers don’t rely on us for that.”
Editor’s Note: This article initially appeared on our security-focused partner SecureBuzz.ca, and is republished with permission. Check out SecureBuzz.ca for full coverage of Canadian IT security issues.