Rogers Communications Inc. is making an ambitious bid for enterprise business in Alberta, with a $75-million investment that will see it become one of the largest data centre providers in the country.
The company announced Nov. 20 that its new operating unit, Rogers Data Centres, will open a flagship 80,000-square-foot facility in Calgary in January 2014; it has just completed an expansion of its Edmonton data centre. Earlier this year, Rogers acquired Blackiron Data, Pivot Data and Granite Networks, making it the No. 2 provider of co-location, cloud computing and data management infrastructure in Canada.
"In the past year, Rogers Business Solutions has taken significant steps to build and strengthen our position as a leader in data centre services in Canada," Terry Canning, senior vice-president of Rogers Business Solutions, said. The company now has 14 data centres across Canada, serving 870 small and medium enterprises, both commercial and government.
"This expansion shows that Rogers is serious about managed data services," Amit Kaminer of Seaboard Group, a telecommunications consulting company, said.
"Businesses use more data, collaborate more between offices and branches. Everyone is using a smartphone. All of this is picking up the market."
Rogers's focus on data services is a response to swelling customer demand for comprehensive data solutions, particularly as international companies ramp up efforts in the oil patch. "It is a growing segment. Rogers wasn't too focused on it before, but Bell, Telus and Allstream have been providing business data services for years," Mr. Kaminer said.
The expansion is part of the company's $700-million investment in Alberta over the next four years, announced earlier this year.
"The overall Rogers strategy has been to do more in the west. Prior to the acquisition of Pivot Data, we were predominantly a central/eastern Canada company," explained A.J. Byers, president of Rogers Data Centres. Blackiron Data and Granite Networks, the other two recent acquisitions, are based in Ontario.
"The economy is Alberta is quite aggressive right now, driven by the huge investment in oil coming from around the world. These companies need technology infrastructure to support their expansions in the province," Mr. Byers said.
All of the data centres built to date in Alberta have "filled fairly rapidly," Mr. Byers said, based on the significant demand in that province. Rogers already has pre-sold customers for its new flagship data centre in Calgary.
"If you talk to CIOs across the country, some of their biggest concerns are big data … and how to migrate from the traditional infrastructure model to a more cloud-based, mobile model," Mr. Byers said.
Rogers' biggest competitors in business data services are Telus and IBM, according to Mr. Byers. Developing fibre optic networks and computing platforms is capital-intensive, and only a few companies are able to afford it.
"We've been in the managed hosting business for 20 years. They are certainly playing catch up and realizing how much growth is available in that market," said Lloyd Switzer, Telus senior vice-president of network transformation.
While these latest expansions are centred on Alberta, Rogers may look to other regions eventually. "We are evaluating pretty much every market in Canada … and will certainly look to expand as demand requires," Mr. Byers said.