French ISP giant OVH further expands into the Canadian market

Paris, France – Roubaix, France-based data storage and Internet services provider OVH might not be a household name in North America, but if this year’s OVH Summit was any indication, it soon will be.

During the conference, which included such highlights as founder and CTO Octave Klaba shredding an AC/DC riff and CEO Laurent Allard announcing a slew of new features and services for the European market, the company’s leaders revealed they would be expanding their North American footprint by opening a new office in Toronto, new points of presence (PoPs) in Detroit and Chicago, and a new datacentre in Ashburn, Virginia, to go along with their existing datacentres in Montreal and Beauharnois, Quebec; research and development facility in Quebec City; and partnership with Canadian telecom giant Rogers Communications Inc.

“From the beginning, Canada has been the perfect entry point into the North American market,” Allard told IT World Canada after helping deliver OVH Summit’s keynote address. “Rogers especially is a strategically important partner for us… we see the quality that they’re delivering to enterprises as key to creating trust for our products.”

The expanded North American footprint is part of a global push that will see the company opening 10 new datacentres around the world, including Asia, within the next year.

In addition to saluting Rogers, which unveiled an OVH-backed public cloud offering during the summer and whose enterprise business unit president Nitin Kawale told the conference audience in a pre-recorded message that the product has had “an extremely positive response to date” thanks to “OVH’s solid reputation as a secure leader in cloud computing,” OVH founder and CTO Klaba was eager to explain to IT World Canada how the new Toronto office, Chicago and Detroit POPs, and Ashburn datacentres would continue his company’s success since its bow into the Canadian market four years ago.

But first, some history

Back in 2012, said Klaba, the company’s leaders had decided a North American expansion would be part of their five-year plan and, while considering locations where they could establish a foothold, came across Beauharnois, a Montreal suburb southwest of the city, and the location of a shuttered Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum factory.

It was exactly the type of space OVH was looking for, Klaba said, and its leaders purchased the factory and began converting it into a datacentre that now has 30,000 servers and the capacity for more than 350,000.

It isn’t only the Quebec datacentre’s capacity that’s unique, however, Klaba said: it’s how OVH measures its operations.

Like many datacentre managers, OVH ranks each its facilities by tiers of between one to four; however, while the majority of datacentre tiers are essentially determined by operating capacity, Klaba said, OVH tiers are different, because the company relies on a water cooling system that uses less power – and is therefore less expensive – than comparable fan-based infrastructure.

“We have some fans, but they are very small, and in some cases we don’t have any at all, so the power consumption of one of our servers is 40 per cent less than a standard server,” Klaba said. “In our standard… tier 4 is for the banks – you want to supply each bank with a lot of security features – but tier 1 and tier 3 is only for direct access, and so what is important for us is not the power supply, but how service is provided to the customer.”

And yes, OVH does provide services to a bank – France’s Societe Generale Group – and hopes to add to Canadian banks to its client list in the future, Klaba said, though he doesn’t think it will happen anytime soon.

“When you are under digital pressure from new competition – startups, mobile applications – you start to work with us because we can help you go faster,” he said. “Today the Canadian banks are not under this kind of pressure, so we’ll see if that changes in the future.”

Back to those datacentres…

Recently, Klaba said, OVH had been collaborating with a series of of North American IP service providers such as Allstream to purchase a fibreoptic network that stretches not only through Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, and Ashburn, but also Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, before looping back to Montreal again.

Combined with his company’s low-power, high-capacity approach to data storage, Klaba said, OVH will now be able to provide North America customers with whatover bandwidth at what he calls “a very low cost,” because the fibreoptic network already existed and the company essentially managed to expand its capacity.

The company has gained one other advantage by operating its datacentres in Canada: Even in 2012, a year before former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of U.S. surveillance efforts, data sovereignty was becoming an issue, Klaba noted.

Some time after the Snowden leak it was revealed that under the U.S. Patriot Act, any data crossing the American border – including through datacentres – is subject to Uncle Sam’s watchful eye.

With OVH’s datacentre network crossing borders, Klaba said that Canadian customers will be allowed to choose if they want their data to stay within Canada’s morders, and expects they will.

“Canada’s data protection laws are much closer to Europe than the U.S.,” he said. “Canadian customers care about data sovereignty. They know about the Patriot Act, and they know they want to keep the data in Canada.”

Planning for the future

Klaba says that in his opinion, OVH is presently working in three different markets: Proof of concept, with the company building solutions that allow startups to create engaging mobile applications and attractive, intuitive websites; worldwide distribution – hence the new datacentres – and consolidation: that is, focusing on improving service for existing customers.

“When you see our competitors, they are only good for the two first steps,” Klaba said. “They are very good at providing a service to start and deploying worldwide. But once if you have the market, if you have no value proposition your customers leave you.”

Klaba considers his competitors based on the market. In public and private cloud, naturally, OVH competes with Adobe Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google’s cloud platform, he said, though he does not see OVH as having competition in the dedicated server space, saying that such would-be competitors as IBM and Rackspace are just getting started, and no U.S. competition in the consolidation market at all.

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former IT World Canada associate editor turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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