Peer 1 Networks is in the final stages of expanding a Toronto data centre to meet what it described as a recovery in IT spending among Canadian corporate enterprises.

The company has added 5,000 ft. to its existing space at 151 Front Street West, a “carrier hotel” located in the city’s downtown core. About 35 per cent of that capacity is already sold, according to Peer 1, and some customers were moved in last week. The rest of the data centre is expected to be finished shortly, said Tamara Hossack, Peer 1’s general manager.

“It’s been a really big project,” she said. “Just buying all the equipment – UPS, HVACs . . . the electrical work alone is a huge contract.”

Peer 1 first moved into 151 Front St. in January of last year. The company had initially opened its own hosting facility but rising costs and the opportunities provided by a third party proved to make better economic sense, Hossack said. The first 4,000 sq. ft. Peer 1 leased was filled up within 15 months, about eight months faster than what the company had projected.

“It’s put us in a position where we’re attracting larger clients, where they’re not as price-competitive,” she said, adding that Peer 1 is seeing considerable re-investment among firms that pulled back during the dot-com burst five years ago. “They will pay for the quality at 151.”

Though it started out as the home of a telegraph exchange, 151 Front already houses equipment from 150 telecom and other providers, including Bell Canada, Primus, Telus, Allstream and MCI. Scott Metcalfe, its director of leasing and property management, said key attributes include 7,000 strands of fibre optic cable, 25 separate entry points into the facility that permit 5.4 trillion simultaneous telephone conversations and a reinforced roof structure for generator sets. Earlier this year, 151 replaced a chiller plant with a deep water-like district cooling and two 800-ton heat exchangers.

“The velocity of leasing activity has been explosive,” he said. “Ultimately it’s about space, power, cooling and connectivity . . . people are looking for a safe haven.”

Responsiveness and continuous uptime are among the primary means by which Peer 1 chose 151 Front St., Hossack added, as is its proximity to its target market.

“We’re next to other telcos, other networks, which can be very important to VoIP companies,” she said.

Availability has proven challenging for colocation and hosting firms such as Q9, which recently experienced a brief outage. Besides the usual redundant equipment, 151 Front St. has 18 backup generators on its roof, and stockpiles more than 40,000 litres of backup diesel fuel. These investments became a major selling point during the August 14, 2003 blackout, Metcalfe said, which knocked out power in some parts of Toronto for more than 24 hours. 

“It was a pretty boring day, which was great for us,” he said.

Peer 1 says it has about 300 customers in Toronto.

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