Q9 adds a floor to downtown Toronto data centre

One of Canada’s fastest-growing infrastructure providers added more space this week as its flagship data centre started to reach maximum capacity.

Q9 Networks said it would be taking over another floor of the downtown Toronto office

building which hosts its facilities for managing network equipment and hosting Web sites. The expansion includes about 300 cabinet equivalents, the company said. The existing facility includes more than 500 cabinet equivalents, which are used to provide services for customers including Indigo Books & Music, Fairmont Hotels and TD Securities, among others.

Q9 launched four years ago with great fanfare, attracting the largest amount of seed venture capital in Canadian history, $26.5 million, to establish its 20,000-sq. ft downtown Toronto facility. The original centre contains 2.5 megawatt diesel generators, 32 dry chillers independent of the building cooling system and two 875 KVA UPSes.

Two years ago, Q9 Networks purchased a much larger data centre from insolvent Exodus Communications Inc. to meet growing demand, win larger contracts and better protect customer data in disaster situations. The 160,000 square-foot former Exodus data centre is based in Brampton, Ont. Another data centre, based in Calgary, was added around the same time.

Q9 makes extensive use of biometric technology to secure its facilities, and some improvements have been added to the new floor. The original facility, for example, uses a fingerprint scanner to allow visits to pass through a turnstile-type door. The new floor has a more flexible entrance mechanism to allow deliveries to more easily get through. Voice activation technology has also been introduced.

“”It’s really more of an evolutionary thing,”” said Osama Arafat, Q9’s chief objective. “”This was an opportunity to make some enhancements, so we did it.””

The location of the Toronto data centre in the heart of the Bay Street financial district is a major attraction for Q9’s customers, said Arafat, and offering tours of the facility is an important part of sealing the deal. “”We have everyone from CEOs and chief security officers to more tactical people at the IT/infrastructure level who come in,”” he said. “”It really depends on the size of the engagement. If it’s a major bank, you’re going to see some really senior people who want to see what you’re offering.””

Research firm IDC Canada remains bullish on the market for hosting service providers, predicting a compound annual growth rate of 11.8 per cent between now and 2008. That would take the market from a forecasted $271 million this year to $412 million in the next four years.

“”Our definition of hosting service providers is (that they) provide Web hosting and other data centre services,”” said Jim Westcott, the firm’s senior Canadian outsourcing analyst. These would include products and services to address network security, data storage and backup and recovery.

Q9, which went public last year, does not make forecasts, but Arafat said the firm shold have enough space for several years. The Calgary data centre, for example, still has more than 70 per cent of its capacity, he said, and last year Q9 introduced a global redundancy service that will route traffic to one site should the other fail entirely.

“”We actually had leased the upper floor of the building some time ago,”” he said. “”We were anticipating this.””

Recent Q9 customer wins include Marlborough Stirling Canada, which is using Q9’s facility to host its mortgage origination and servicing solutions.

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