Canada Prime Turf for Massive Data Centres

by Jordan Richardson on June 23, 2011

It turns out that Canada may well be prime turf for those massive data centres used to run corporate networks and websites. According to the Data Centre Risk Index, Canada ranks second in the world as a place to house huge computers.

The distinction is an interesting one and could be flattering, but there are some downsides. For one, the server farms and supercomputers use up colossal amounts of power. Also, the potential exists that the computer storage sites could be seen as valuable targets for terrorist groups intent on disrupting communications and technology.

Of course, the pluses are numerous too. Canada has “cheap electricity,” says the Data Centre Risk Index, and the weather lends itself to cooling. Corporate tax rates also benefit businesses looking to set up server shop in the Great White North. And the political climate is relatively stable, especially in comparison to some other hot locales.

“Second place is great but Canada should really be at the top of this industry because of all the geographic advantages it has over just about any other location in the world,” said Anton Self, chief executive officer of Bastionhost Ltd., a data centre company in Halifax.

Data centres are notorious for sucking electricity and energy. These enormous buildings require an awful lot of power to fuel the day-to-day operations of computers run by governments and corporations. An estimated 50 percent of energy consumption in an average data centre goes to powering the engines.

The other half goes to cooling the engines and that’s where Canada proves most expedient. In a power-strapped world, the break Canada’s chilly climate can offer is hard to ignore.

Other countries, like India and China, are building data centres quickly and on a gargantuan scale, but they don’t rate as highly as the Canadian experience due to factors like national disaster risk and government regulations.

“Canada scored well in absolutely every category except the cost of labour,” said Pierre Bergevin, chief executive officer of Cushman & Wakefield’s Canadian operations. “But I certainly don’t take that as a negative thing – that just reflects our quality of life.”

Canada currently boasts at least one monstrous data centre in downtown Toronto worth $192 million. Owned by Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust, the centre powers much of Toronto’s activity.

The United States, as you might expect, currently ranks first in the Index.

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