Canadian Net centre part of AT&T global plan

AT&T Inc. will open a new Internet data centre (IDC) in Thornhill, Ont., which the company says will provide Canadian multinational clients with managed hosting services, including remote monitoring and data management capabilities.

The move by San Antonio, Tex.-based AT&T is part of a US$750-million global investment in IP managed services, with Canada getting a significant share. The centre is scheduled to open later in 2007.

“We support over 1,300 customers in Canada. Our sweet spot is the global multinationals. We’re not trying to sell to the small retail establishments. It’s really for multinationals,” said David Denault, general manager of AT&T Global Services Canada. Another AT&T representative said services for enterprise clients will continue to grow in importance for the telecom firm.

”We look at the IP backbone really as a tool for our businesses in order for them to deploy their applications and services much more efficiently, and partner with them to manage those services,” said Andrea Messineo, vice-president of AT&T for Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America.

“With the IDCs, we either select AT&T applications that we host in those data centres, [such as] managed firewalls, or we can host the client’s applications and have them access those remotely.”

Messineo added that the investment plan, while international in outlook (there are expansion plans to countries as disparate as Vietnam and Germany), will work to push AT&T’s reach into Canada, given the significant number of subsidiary multinationals currently operating in Canada that require managed IP services.

The overall investment package includes a variety of new services from AT&T. Aside from expanded IDC capacity, AT&T is also expanding its Ethernet and DSL connections to business clients in 155 countries.

In Canada, AT&T’s managed hosting services have been appealing to both smaller companies and larger enterprises, Denault said. As an example, Hatch Ltd., a small engineering consultancy firm based in Mississauga, Ont., is an AT&T managed services customer. Big multinational firms Whirlpool Inc. and Siemens Canada Ltd. are likewise users of the service, the AT&T executive said.

One analyst, however, isn’t convinced that investing in one data centre in Canada is a sound decision.

“It doesn’t make sense technically or economically to do it,” commented Arthur Gottlieb of market research company NBI/Sone & Associates in Toronto. “It doesn’t help a Vancouver-based firm, for instance, to have its data centre in Thornhill,” he said.

Gottlieb also noted that AT&T will have to contend with differences in privacy laws between the U.S. and Canada over how corporate data is stored and managed. Still, Gottlieb said he believed AT&T’s overall concentration on investing in Canada makes sense. “It’s really a question of how much of the US$750 million [will be spent] outside of the U.S. In Canada, besides the IDC, they’ve spent US$10 million in the last couple of months. Canada’s an important area for them,” he said.

“The future is converged networks, which require a very robust IP backbone. It makes perfect sense to go that way — it’s what their customers are asking for. They’re moving with the times and even trying to lead it.”

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