Q9 pushes west

Q9 Networks Inc. is growing quickly with its three-fold, $60-million expansion plan. The Toronto-based IT service provider of such offerings as dedicated servers, firewalls and load-balancing services recently opened a new data centre in Calgary.

Built at a cost of $20 million, the data centre functions as a primary facility or disaster recovery site with a capacity of 1,200 full-cabinet equivalents. The centre includes dual UPS backup, two redundant diesel power generators, an internal power distribution network, climate control, secure wire channels, cabinet fans that enhance air flow and 42U in vertical mounting space.

Q9 says the new Calgary data centre is the second of three major expansion projects scheduled to open in 2007. A new 1,000-cabinet equivalent data centre in Toronto opened in January, while a 1,200-cabinet equivalent expansion of the company’s Brampton, Ont. data centre will open in the fall of 2007. The investments will give Q9 a total capacity of more than 7,200 cabinet equivalents.

One company representative said the expansion plans work to serve both the managed services and colocation markets.

“We still see strong demand for both managed services and colocation services — we’ve approached capacity at the data centre we built in 2002 and the market has been extremely good in Calgary in the past few years,” said Osama Arafat, CEO of Q9.

“Over the past few years, equipment has been getting smaller. Service providers have to build data centres to higher levels of density so the number of watts per square foot goes up. The way we sell our services, it doesn’t matter to the customer what the density is, it’s more of an optimization of services for them,” he said.

The new data centre also includes a range of powerful security tools, including biometric security systems, video surveillance, on-site security officers and redundant power, HVAC and fire-suppression systems.

“We have a wide variety of customers ranging from financial institutions, banks, oil and gas companies, so that pushes us into a very high level of security,” he said. One analyst said Q9’s investment in the Calgary market is due to the demand for technology services in the fast-growing region being far greater than supply.

“There is a market demand in general across Canada for colocation and dedicated Web hosting and value-added services,” said Mark Schrutt, research manager at IDC Canada.

“This is being driven by demands in the areas of remote content management services and application optimization services. Q9’s expansion in Calgary is likely fuelled by the business opportunities, the limitations of their initial data centre and the need for organic growth,” he said.

Arafat said the challenges in setting up the data centre in Calgary were mainly a shortage in labour. “The Calgary labour market is a constrained market right now. It took a lot of effort to get the project done on time and under budget, and that was challenging,” he said. Schrutt also said that the Alberta SMB market is underserved by third-party data centres and that Q9’s expansion into Calgary is a smart strategic decision.

“They’re pursuing the mid-level colocation and small, dedicated server-type environments. There’s tremendous opportunity. It’s a good move.”

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