Toronto is North America’s fourth largest city, and Canada’s largest technology hub with a technology sector that employs more than a quarter of all tech workers in Canada. And with countless startups on their way, it’s no wonder there’s demand in the Toronto market for IT services.
Earlier this week, SoftLayer opened a data center in Markham, Ontario, just north of Toronto, with capacity for 15,000 servers. It is based on a standardized design that, on the inside, looks identical to its Singapore data center or its Dallas data center, and means that SoftLayer’s entire product catalog available in the Toronto region.
SoftLayer CTO Marc Jones said that the company is going after Internet-centric companies in the the startup community, but also enterprises which can benefit from SoftLayer’s platform but also IBM’s Platform-as-a-Service BlueMix and the various Software-as-a-Service products that IBM runs on the SoftLayer platform.
“When we go to Toronto, when we go to Canada, we’re really targeting that entire customer base with the entire breadth of offering we have with IBM and SoftLayer combined,” Jones said in an interview.
The new data center will provide resources close to Toronto users, but also be linked to SoftLayer’s global network where users can move data to other data center without additional transfer fees. Users also have choice between SoftLayer’s have Bare Metal servers for very demanding and specific workloads, and SoftLayer’s public virtualized cloud that allows users to spin up new cloud servers in minutes.
The location of their data is also a concern to many Canadian companies, and data sovereignty is a major appeal of the Toronto data center. Jones notes, however, that locality is something that underlies IBM’s $1.2 billion dollar investment to expand its global data center footprint.
Among the 15 new data centers projects it is planning to open this year, data centers are now online in London, Hong Kong, Dallas, and the Washington D.C. area. The plan also call for data center projects in China, Japan, India, and Mexico.
SoftLayer has also been on the ground in Toronto through its “Catalyst” program, which has been working to develop local startups through organizations like GrowLab, Communitech, Ryerson University, Innovation Factory, Extreme Startups and the Ontario Network of Excellence. Catalyst offers infrastructure as well as technical guidance and even some financial support to these early-stage tech companies.
The Toronto data center can also be thought of as a starting point for businesses that want to expand either now or in the future, according to Jones.
“Customers in Canada might want to start with the Toronto data center or maybe a lot of their customers are in Canada and they want their data and their compute to be closer to their end users from a performance standpoint,” he says. “But as they grow and their customer base grows, they have a lot of choice as to where they deploy, how they deploy.”
He continues, “Leveraging our network, you’re able to have your primary site in Toronto, if you wanted to have your [Disaster Recovery] site or backup site in Dallas or D.C. you can leverage your private network with no bandwidth fees and be able to keep your environment succinct and provide more choice for how you architect or define your solutions.”
Jones says that the global expansion of the SoftLayer platform owes a lot to IBM’s acquisition of SoftLayer in July 2013.
A little more than a year since the acquisition was finalized, he says, “I think overall it’s been very successful. We’ve seen a lot of growth on the SoftLayer platform. And quite honestly, it’s been a lot of fun. Every day we are focused at SoftLayer on building the best Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform in the industry. That definitely drives us everyday.”