Data Center POST interview with AJ Byers, CEO of ROOT Data Center

By Contributing Editor Sarah Chamberlain

AJ Byers is CEO of ROOT Data Center, a leading Montreal firm that specializes in next-generation colocation that goes beyond reliability and security. AJ leverages over 20 years of experience in the data center industry to support and promote business growth and transformation. Prior to joining ROOT, AJ served as President of Rogers Data Centers, where he was instrumental in leading the team in the development of one of Canada’s largest data center service companies. Additionally, as Executive VP of Primus, he guided the company from its status as a legacy telecom provider, transforming it into a full solution technology services organization.

Data Center POST recently sat down with AJ to discuss the company’s role in a sustainable future, how the industry as a whole can benefit from artificial intelligence and more.

Data Center POST, Sarah Chamberlain (DCP-SC) Question: The death of the enterprise data center has been speculated about throughout 2018 and Canada in particular is seeing this trend play out as more companies are offloading the cost of operating a facility. How did you see this playing out in the Montreal market over the past year and what developments can we expect looking forward?

ROOT Data Center, AJ Byers (RDC-AJ) Answer: Canada has lagged behind other parts of the world in terms of cloud adoption. This is due to the fact that there hasn’t been a true in-country large scale cloud option until just a couple of years ago. We’re expecting to see this transition happen here at an increasing rate throughout the next one to four years, but the migration has certainly begun already as we’re seeing cloud operators with local presences grow quickly.

Since major players like AWS, Azure, Google and SoftLayer have established themselves in Canada, I think we can expect to see a couple of things, starting with the next phase of cloud companies looking to Montreal for their operations. This means that enterprises will have access to more than just Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) in Canada as Software as a Service (SaaS) companies quickly follow. Also, enterprises that cannot fully deploy cloud will start to look to hybrid solutions in partnership with a data center with a flexible on-ramp offering, like ROOT’s most recent announcement with Megaport.

DCP-SC Q: With more attention being placed on sustainability from an individual, corporate and even government level, how has ROOT’s role in a more sustainable world evolved over time and how can the company and the industry as a whole work better to reduce its carbon footprint?

RDC-AJ A: Access to green power is actually one of the key reasons that ROOT chose Montreal as a base of operations. Montreal’s clean energy ability is part of why we’re seeing over 75 percent of Canada’s data center growth occurring in the area. Our data center design remains free of substantial water usage as compared to many evaporative cooling deployments being installed today. We have a very small carbon footprint, especially relative to some of the operators who are on the coal-fired grids elsewhere in North America.

However, data centers still constitute 4 percent or more of global power consumption, so there is still room for work to be done. ROOT has innovated on power efficiency further in the past year by looking at multi-zone data center design. Companies employing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have applications with varying requirements for uptime, but some customers don’t want or need tier 3 operations for particular applications.

ROOT has developed a tier-zero data hall design and we have completed full production testing on the implementation where our power use effectiveness (PUE) is exceptionally low at 1.05, further reducing our power usage. We believe this trend will lead to a more flexible level of uptime support across a customer’s deployment. Customers will be thoughtful of their needs and aligning uptime requirements across application types in the future. This will allow data center operators to be more efficient and use less and less power to further reduce our footprints.

DCP-SC Q:  Many of the buzzwords for 2019 are focusing on machine learning and smart cities and the increasing proliferation of data and IoT. Is the industry paying too much attention to these types of buzzwords without the real-world implementation to back it up or do you think that it’s necessary to keep moving the industry forward?

RDC-AJ A: There is absolutely an over-hype of new technology and its current usefulness, which has happened for many years. The internet was not extremely useful for the first few years, and voice recognition was not as useful for at least five years from when it was widely introduced.  However, as each of these technologies has matured, extremely useful applications have been developed and their usefulness has increased. Now, these technologies consume, create, and utilize massive amounts of data. The fact that we are at the infancy of AI and IoT likely means that we should expect that usefulness will increase substantially over the next few years. The impact on data centers will far surpass anyone’s current expectations. Also, we will need to plan for how these new technologies will change how data centers are designed and run.

At the same time, it’s extremely necessary to keep the industry moving forward. Functions like machine learning and IoT, along with AI, augmented and virtual reality, and big data may feel like buzzwords, but they are absolutely creating enormous amounts of data. The more data we create from these sources, the more space there will need to be to house and process it. This should be a huge opportunity for the data centers that are ready to serve the companies that are growing and evolving.

There are also applications with these new technologies to change how data centers operate. We have led with using AI in our data centers to help reduce risk of downtime, but there is always room to enhance and improve further, and other data center operators are following suit.

In the end, the future of data centers will be led by those who can pivot quickly, meet the new needs of our customers, expand and deploy very quickly so the customer never has a capacity deficit, operate efficiently and effectively and with a light environmental footprint.

DCP-SC Q: Thanks so much for chatting with us, AJ.  To learn more about ROOT, please visit