Montreal, Québec is Canada’s second-most populous city and its second-largest by GDP, but has historically been considered a peripheral data center market. However, this notion is swiftly changing – as Montreal is becoming one of the most rapidly growing data center markets in all of North America, particularly with hyperscale facility growth being driven by operators including Cologix, Vantage Data Centers, Compass Datacenters, and eStruxture.
In Canada, Montreal is one of the top two data center markets, with the other being Toronto. Additionally, across Canada, operational data center space is ~2/3rds retail colocation and only ~1/3rd wholesale (i.e., large scale data centers). Nevertheless, Montreal is unique, because it has a significant concentration of this wholesale or hyperscale data center space.
Montreal’s Value Proposition for Hyperscale Data Centers
Montreal, and the Province of Québec, have a number of unique features, which form an attractive market for hyperscale data center operators. Specifically, Montreal and Québec’s features include:
- Abundant, low-cost hydroelectric power
- Cold and dry climate, which allows data centers to use less energy, by taking advantage of the naturally colder air to cool their infrastructure
- Fiber optic connectivity links Montreal’s data centers, into the United States and the rest of Canada, through important dark fiber routes
- Low probability of natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes
- Significant information technology and engineering workforce from local universities
Hydroelectric Power – Competitive Advantage
Low-cost hydroelectric power is a particularly important advantage of Montreal. Specifically, power prices are typically CAD $0.05 per kWh, which is equivalent to USD ~$0.04 per kWh. Indeed, this represents one of the lowest prices for power on the East coast of Canada and the United States.
Notably, Montreal sources 99%+ of its electricity from this hydroelectric power, which is renewable and clean electricity. Particularly, this power is provided by Hydro-Québec, a public utility formed by the Provincial Government of Québec.
Demand for Montreal’s Hyperscale Data Centers
Collectively, the aforementioned factors are driving a boom in both demand and construction for hyperscale data center space in Montreal. In particular, this demand is coming from the following customer groups:
Cloud Service Providers
Cloud service providers are leasing more data center space in Montreal, as a result of cloud adoption growing in Canada. Specifically, these cloud service providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, and Oracle Cloud, which are opening cloud regions and all have deployments in Montreal.
Bitcoin miners are choosing Montreal and Québec because they require immense volumes of processing power, and thus electricity, to run their mining operations. In turn, bitcoin miners seek abundant and low-cost electricity – features that Montreal and Québec can satisfy.
Other Demand Sources
Demand for Montreal data centers is also coming from social media companies, such as Facebook, who has taken data center space in the market. Additionally, content companies, including Netflix, find Montreal attractive. Finally, within the video game industry, data centers are important for i) video game developers like Activision Blizzard and Ubisoft and ii) enabling massive multiplayer online games (MMOs), where 100% uptime and low-latency is a requirement.
Montreal’s Hyperscale Data Center Operators
Below we detail select examples of Montreal’s largest hyperscale data centers. Specifically, this overview includes seven data centers from four key operators in Montreal, namely, Cologix, Vantage Data Centers, Compass Datacenters, and eStruxture.
As shown in the map above, these data centers are situated throughout the city of Montreal, with clusters around the city’s airport (Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport) and others in close proximity to Downtown Montreal.
Cologix is the largest provider of data center space and power in Montreal, with 11 data centers, spanning ~1 million sqft. The company has a particular focus on interconnection, meaning it hosts carrier hotels, with Cologix controlling Montreal’s main hub downtown.
Overall, Cologix’s interconnection specialization enables the company to offer direct connections to i) cloud service providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud and ii) network service providers, such as Zayo and Cogent Communications, amongst others.
Cologix’s MTL10 is a hyperscale data center in the Montreal suburb of Longueuil. The facility can provide 35 megawatts of critical power across 180k sqft of space. Additionally, Cologix has plans to expand the facility to 50 megawatts of power capacity and 240k sqft.
Cologix’s MTL10 has a substation on-site, which supplies the data center with 100% renewable power from utility company Hydro-Québec. This power is then channeled into 9 megawatts of power for each data hall within the facility, with up to 30 kilowatts delivered to each server cabinet.
Vantage Data Centers
Vantage Data Centers is one of the newest entrants into Montreal’s data center market, acquiring the hyperscale data center business from Hypertec in 2020 and local operator 4Degrees in 2019. Vantage’s facilities in Montreal operate on nearly 100% hydroelectric power supplied by Hydro-Québec, creating very little greenhouse gas. Finally, the colder Montreal climate allows Vantage’s campuses to leverage free cooling, meaning the use of the naturally cool air outside of its data centers to cool its infrastructure, almost all year-round.
Montreal I (QC1)
Vantage’s Montreal I (QC1) facility is located in the Technoparc Montreal, a business park for the life sciences, aerospace, and technology industries. Montreal I is situated on a 5-acre campus offering 11 megawatts of critical IT load across 60k sqft of space through this multi-story data center.
Presently, Montreal I is only partially operational, with 3-megawatts available. To this end, the campus has an 8-megawatt expansion scheduled for completion later in 2021.
In terms of connectivity, the data center has four, diverse points-of-entry for the campus, for inbound carriers. Additionally, given the data centers’ location in Technoparc Montreal, it targets both hyperscale and enterprise customers. Finally, Montreal I leverages outside air to help to cool this data center for up to 80% of the year.
Montreal II (QC4)
Vantage’s Montreal II (QC4) facility is situated on a 10-acre site, which will ultimately total three facilities with 49 megawatts of critical IT load and 320k gross sqft of space, once fully developed. Presently, Vantage has built-out 25 megawatts across two existing facilities. Therefore, 24 megawatts of incremental capacity is available by constructing one more building on the campus.
In terms of connectivity, the data center has six distinct and physically diverse entrances, which connect into four meet-me-rooms. Inside these meet-me-rooms, is access to more than 10 regional, national, and international carriers.
Compass Datacenters is an operator focused on building large-scale data center campuses for the cloud service providers. Both of the company’s Montreal data centers use 100% renewable power supplied by Hydro-Québec. Additionally, Compass Datacenters uses free cooling to cool its infrastructure for 90% of the year.
Compass’ Montreal I campus provides 9 megawatts of capacity across 26k sqft of space, supporting both hyperscale and retail colocation workloads. Notably, this campus spans two distinct buildings. Finally, from this facility, Compass is able to achieve a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of <1.17, which is well-below the industry average of 1.59.
Compass’ Montreal II facility offers 30 megawatts of capacity, over 9 available data halls, and 175k sqft. The site is located on 384k sqft of land, with the potential to scale to 50 megawatts of power capacity.
eStruxture currently has 100+ megawatts of power capacity across major cities in Canada. In Montreal, the company’s data centers offer 100% renewable power supplied by Hydro-Québec. Additionally, eStruxture’s facilities can offer high-density computing, with more than 30 kilowatts per server cabinet.
eStruxture’s MTL-2 site is located just outside of Montreal’s downtown area. The building comprises 187k+ sqft and is situated on land of 490k sqft. While the data center space spans 8 data halls and 30 megawatts of power capacity supplied by a single substation.
Finally, eStruxture provides connectivity with more than 20 carriers on-site, through two separate meet-me-rooms.
eStruxture’s MTL-4 facility delivers a combination of cloud, connectivity, and colocation facilities, with managed services. This data center comprises 103k sqft of total space. Further, it has the ability to grow to 16.5 megawatts of power capacity, over 4 data halls. Presently, it has a primary utility feed of 4.5 megawatts.
In terms of connectivity, MTL-4 is network-neutral, with access to 9 carriers through two diverse meet-me-rooms.
Conclusion – Montreal’s Hyperscale Data Centers
Montreal’s key hyperscale data center operators including Cologix (backing from Stonepeak Infrastructure), Vantage Data Centers (backing from DigitalBridge), Compass Datacenters (backing from OTPP, RedBird, Azrieli), and eStruxture (backing from Fengate, CDPQ) are propelling Montreal into one of the most rapidly growing data center markets in all of North America. With strong financial sponsors backing each of the market’s major operators, Montreal’s hyperscale data center growth is primed to continue unabated.