Telus invests $33M in Quebec data centre project

Telus on Wednesday said it plans to put the power of virtualization and so-called green IT to the test as it spends the next two years building a data centre in Quebec as part of its managed services business.

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One of Canada’s largest incumbents, Telus has also been focusing on hosting infrastructure and applications for a variety of enterprise firms, including customer relationship management and Web portals. The company said it will spend $33 million building the facility, which will be based in Laval, span 44,500 sq. ft and connect to six mega-volt-amps of power. Telus already operates eight other data centres in Canada.

Brian MacIntosh, vice-president of Telus’s managed IT and collaboration services group, said the company has seen a doubling in the demand for its managed IT services in Canada and particularly across Quebec compared to the overall market growth rate.

“Our facilities are reaching their capacity quicker than what we expected,” he said. “One goal is to bring additional managed service capacity online and another is to create more super-centres that allow us to provide services not only to the province of Quebec but elsewhere.”

Telus’s green IT strategy is to create a heat and exchange system based on a what MacIntosh described as a “pod design” of hot aisles and cool aisles. The blade servers and other equipment that are more densely packed, for example, may have different requirements than other machines in the facility.

“In a traditional data centre, what you do is cool the entire facility,” he said. “This really is a variable cooling approach.” A heat-and-exchange system will also provide “free cooling” thanks to Quebec’s climate for two thirds of the year, he added.

Like many enterprise companies grappling with energy and power consumption issues, Telus is also using virtualization, software that allows users to run multiple “instances” of an operating system on a single machine. In the case of the Quebec data centre, Telus plans to run more than 1,500 server workloads on a 12 to one machine ratio.

“When we first started, it was just a four to one ratio,” he said. “Right now, Telus as an organization is really mirroring what’s happening in the industry. Every application that’s introduced is first targeted for a virtualized environment, and only if that application isn’t suitable – if it’s some mission-critical high processing requirement, for example – is it left on a physical server.”

Johna Till Johnson, president and senior founding partner of Nemertes Research, said there is a dual-pronged impetus for green initiatives that makes virtualization such a common part of many data centre strategies.

Most servers use 50 per cent of their rated power even when idle, so they’re using 50 per cent of electricity but doing five per cent work, Johnson said.

That means that for every 100 servers only five are in use. Turning off the other 95 would result in 47.5 per cent efficiency, she said. In addition, for every productive dollar gained from servers, almost two dollars are wasted in UPS, AC/DC conversions and fans, Johnson said.

“It’s about efficiency as much as it is about anything else,” she said.

MacIntosh said Telus is turning to a number of data centre automation tools that will allow it to remotely manage the Quebec data centre.

— with files from IDG News Service