Inside the Big Five: Power, Persistence and Finding the Right Site in Toronto

Phil Schwarzmann

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We built our new TR2 facility in Toronto for the same reason we built every one of the Big Five data centers we’re opening globally this year: to meet demand for essential, instant and secure interconnection. But each metro has its unique draws.

In Toronto, we’re expanding in an international financial capital – something we’ve planned to do since we entered the Canadian market five years ago. In a previous post, we talked with Howard Horowitz, Equinix‘s senior vice president of global real estate, about the decisions we make before we even start to build in a market. In this post, Horowitz talks about power, high ceilings and why local expertise matters.

In Toronto, we were looking for an existing building downtown so we could serve our financial customers there. What’s important when you’re scouting sites?

Typically, we’re looking for the more interconnected sites, where there’s a confluence of fiber (cabling). That tends to be along rail lines or highways, or near telecom carrier central offices in areas with denser populations. We’re also primarily looking for buildings with high ceilings, because high ceilings allows for more space for the hot and cold air to separate. That helps us get the heat out of the building more easily. We also need heavy floor loads – some of our customer’s IT cabinets weigh in at more than 2,500 pounds each. Column spacing is an issue, too. Columns can’t be too close together or our customer cages won’t fit and cabinet layouts are inefficient.

Can you talk about how you ensure sites have adequate power?

In certain downtown markets, it is plentiful. In others, it can be a challenge, it can be tapped out or need to come from multiple substations or require major infrastructure upgrades by the utility company. Usually we can figure it out. As the data center industry continues to grow utility companies are starting to be more proactive in their approach. We have great engineering, construction and operations teams who work closely with these utility companies to plan for the future needs of our customers. In Toronto, there was so much commercial development going up, we were concerned whether we’d have access to enough power. But the utility said, “We can deliver.”

Strong local relationships have got to be important.

Absolutely. We need government approval for what is a very specialized building that municipalities often aren’t familiar with. You have to have a really committed local team, working on your behalf, to get those approvals. It’s very important for us to work with people who are experts in data centers, but who are also local. Execution of real estate is local, and it’s critical for us to have people who understand the business climate, the decision makers, the competitive market and the history of the land and sites we’re looking at.

How do you take advantage of the fact that TR1 is already established in Toronto?

It really strengthens our interconnection offering. There’s such a big demand for interconnection there, and these data centers are just a mile apart, connected by dark fiber, so it’s like they share a building. If you set up in TR2, you can connect to anyone inside TR1 – any cloud provider or network – like they’re right next to you. It’s the same thing for TR1 as TR2 grows. And we absolutely take advantage of the knowledge that we already have in the market. We have skilled Equinix engineers and technicians who are already experienced in operating in TR1, and they can leverage that knowledge atTR2.. It’s a big advantage to have that expertise already in the market and leverage that additional scale. We open the facility and, “boom,” we’re expand our valued platform, unique products operational excellence in Toronto.