Edmonton’s newest data centre

The latest buzzword in the world of technology is “cloud computing”, otherwise known as utility or sometimes on-demand computing. All the tech giants are getting into the game, and analysts are making bold predictions about the nascent industry. According to a recent BusinessWeek article, cloud computing represents “a sea change in the way computing is done in corporations” and Merrill Lynch estimates that the annual market for cloud computing will surge to $95 billion within the next five years.

Plenty of new industries will likely be created as a result of the growth of cloud computing, and a few existing ones will definitely shrink if not disappear altogether. Others stand to gain, such as the data centre industry. It had its last major growth spurt during the dotcom boom of the 90’s, when companies spent large amounts of money to build their place on the web. Cloud computing could provide the industry with another major boost.

There are a few data centres located in Edmonton, perhaps the most well-known of which is the Tera-Byte facility in the basement of the CN Tower. The newest data centre was built in the west end by 4WEB.ca. I had a chance to speak with Ayman Hassan, President of 4WEB.ca, about the new facility, and was treated to a tour as well.

Inside the 4WEB Data Center

Located in the city’s west end on 118th Avenue at 143rd Street, the 4WEB data centre doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside is quite impressive. Thick doors, 24 hour monitored security, and 80kW UPS, 400Amp of available power, lots of A/C, workstations with outside connections (DSL, Cable), and top-of-the-line APC lockers and racks are just a few of the things you’ll find. As we walked around and talked about the various hardware it struck me that 4WEB has spared no expense, purchasing the best equipment and making it completely redundant. Each system has a failover, and everything can be controlled and monitored from within the network operations centre (NOC). It’s quite different than some of the other “data centres” you’ll find in Edmonton.

Like most major construction projects, 4WEB’s new data centre has been built in phases. The first phase was simply finding a suitable location. Phase two consisted of getting the NOC up and running. Phases three to five will be about adding additional capacity for power, backup runtime, and air conditioning. Phases six to ten will be focused on expansion – taking the new data centre to capacity and starting to look for additional locations at which to build.

Also like most major construction projects, I figured Ayman and his team must have run into some interesting challenges along the way. He confirmed there were several they had to overcome, and said “the biggest challenge was in finding a suitable location outside the downtown core that had ample fibre and power.”

The most recent improvement to 4WEB’s data centre was the installation of Terago wireless and BGP routing, so that if the fibre connection fails everything switches over to the wireless connection. The next target is additional cooling and a backup generator, which have a combined cost of nearly $300,000. You’ve got to be serious to play in the infrastructure game!

Inside the 4WEB Data Center

Ayman told me that demand for 4WEB’s offering is strong, particularly given the strength of the Edmonton and Alberta economies. Data centres are expensive to build, and are simply out of reach for most small and medium sized enterprises. “Even corporate and government customers find it beneficial to outsource this service thus saving valuable resources that would have otherwise been tied up in building their own mini-data centers,” Ayman said. He anticipates that all the lockers that have been setup so far will be rented within the next three months.

The grand opening will be sometime this fall, but Ayman has already given dozens of tours and continues to do so for anyone interested – simply call ahead and book a time. To learn more about 4WEB and for full contact information, visit their website. You can see more photos of the facility here.