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 success over the past year, Montreal’s growth and prominence in the market and what to expect for the future of ROOT. For part one of this session, please click here.
Data Center POST, Sarah Chamberlain (DCP-SC) Question: In 2018, ROOT announced facility expansions at MTL-R1 and MTL-R2 that once completed, will bring 65MW of data center capacity to Montreal. Similarly, Montreal has become very popular among hyperscale cloud providers. How is the company positioning itself to be competitive in a crowded field?
ROOT Data Center, AJ Byers (RDC-AJ) Answer: At ROOT, we are always innovating to ensure we are meeting the needs of our end user customers. We believe that we have some fundamental differences as compared to many of our competitors. To start, we build capacity faster than any other provider in the industry, with multi-megawatt expansions taking only four to five months. We also have one of the most environmentally conscious and cost-effective implementations in the market.
We are evolving our operations to meet the changing needs of our customers in a number of ways. To start, ROOT is leveraging some of the most advanced AI technologies in the market, and is developing new tier level designs to meet the evolving needs of applications for the future. We also can deploy and effectively cool at some of the highest densities in the North American market. On top of all this, ROOT is partnering with some of the most advanced cloud on-ramp and network partners in the market as well. Ultimately, we are ensuring that all of this is possible with strong financial backing so that we can move quickly and ensure space, power and equipment is always restraint-free.
DCP-SC Q: Montreal is now able to compete with the likes of Toronto, New York and Boston for data center services. As the market rises in prominence globally as a hotbed for data centers, ROOT has the unique position of being based in Montreal—how does your business philosophy reflect the region it started in and how will that philosophy help ROOT to grow beyond Montreal?
RDC-AJ A: Montreal is a unique market to launch in as it has allowed ROOT to understand some of the main challenges that would exist in a global expansion. To start, Montreal has two key languages, with the dominant language being different from the rest of Canada or the U.S. Montreal’s legal regime is also fundamentally different from that of the rest of Canada or the U.S. Additionally, Montreal’s labor laws are unique when compared to the rest of Canada, and Montreal has a very protected construction industry that is dissimilar to much of the rest of the country. All of this has allowed ROOT to experience uniqueness in many aspects of the business that would be similar to expanding into new markets around the world. We have learned where we can apply practices from the industry and where we need local assistance to expedite projects and ensure staff are taken care of appropriately, which will be helpful in the event we branch out into new regions.
Being based in Montreal was not a quick decision for ROOT. It was the best and most logical decision, but our site selection process has over 140 (at least) checks on it to ensure we are in the absolute best place possible for our business. Our philosophy has always been about how we can innovate on the established data center model to be as efficient as we can, and to serve the changing needs of the industry. Montreal is a fantastic location for our model based on its access to long-haul, local, and dark fiber. Additionally, the area’s cold climate aids our facility cooling. Montreal’s proximity to not only Canadian businesses but major U.S. markets, and its financial and tax incentives from the regional government round out its long list of benefits. We are excited to grow our platform to other regions, and those that we choose will have the same site selection process as we utilized for Montreal.
DCP-SC Q: Finally, looking back at 2018, what were ROOT’s biggest accomplishments and what do can we expect to see from you moving forward?
RDC-AJ A:This was truly a very big year for ROOT. Operationally, we deployed 15MW of new capacity in the market and designed and broke ground on a greenfield 10MW building at our MTL-R1 campus. We also designed, developed, tested, and put into production an ultra-efficient tier zero data center for the purpose of high density, less critical compute hosting that we believe will be perfect for AI and IoT. We enhanced our online Learning Management System to allow for rapid onboarding of new team members, grew the overall operations team by more than 40 percent to aid our expansion, and achieved 100 percent uptime in our data center platform.
We are also proud to have earned recognition as a business this year in the Montreal area. We have had a nomination for a DCD Data Center Operations Team of the Year Award for our world’s first AI deployment to reduce downtime risk, and won multiple awards including the prestigious Business of the Year from the West Island Montreal Chamber of Commerce.
Most importantly though, we were able to serve our customers to their great satisfaction, delivering on our promise of fast deployment and efficient operations, which is really the most important thing for us to achieve.
DCP-SC Q: Thanks so much for chatting with us, AJ. To learn more about ROOT, please visit www.rootdatacenter.com.