Michel Chartier: Despite Red-Hot Demand, Blockchain Data Centers Still Niche, Not Impacting Wider Economy in Canada

Apr 4, 2018
by Josh Anderson

SAN FRANCSICO, CA — At CapRE’s Northern California Data Center Summit last month, we facilitated a panel called Blockchain & Data Centers: How Blockchain and Digital Currencies are Transforming Data Center Architecture, Design & Development, and Cloud Platforms. Moderated by Ed Kimm, Vice-President for Cloud Solutions & Strategic Alliances at StrataCore, one of the most interesting tidbits of the discussion focused on the wider effects of blockchain data centers economically.

“I didn’t know this until recently, but Montréal, Québec is an epicenter for crypto-mining, partly because it has the 2nd lowest electric rates in all of North America,” began Kimm. “That’s because of Hydro-Québec, which is their public utility. So there has been this huge influx of data center infrastructure and mining operations – you’re getting 5 or maybe even 10 a week.”

Kimm then asked his two discussants – both Canadian blockchain experts — how blockchain data centers have affected Montréal and Québec, in terms of economic growth. First to respond was Michel Chartier, President of Kelvin Emtech.

“We haven’t seen a huge impact on the general public – yet. Why?” he asked the room. “Because of the negotiation in building the infrastructure and getting the 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 miners in to install them. We were more affected by the big players coming in, like Amazon and all of the other are negotiating with Hydro-Quebec to get cheap power. Microsoft came in with the Cloud, the AI industry like Apple and Google are all also based out of Montreal. That created more of a stir than the Bitcoin industry.”

Michel Chartier, President, Kelvin Emtech

“Crypto-currency and mining are still really niche in Montréal,” Chartier clarified. “Keep in mind that no one is going to sell them generators. No one is going to sell them UPS. We’re selling fans, and that’s about it. So it’s not a huge impact.”

Chartier then handed over the microphone to his co-panelist Derek Garnier, President & Chief Operating Officer of Evocative Data Centers. “I got asked about helping out on a project for the conversion of a power plant,” offered Garnier, laying groundwork for his perspective. “The idea was that it would be one of these gigawatt-based systems, and power is about 3 cents a kilowatt hour, which is unbelievably cheap.”

“When we look at that, we say, Wow, that’s absolutely perfect, to put these miners there. But then you realize, I’d much rather have Google as my client” he wryly surmised. “I’d rather have Facebook. I’d rather have Amazon. The OTTs and web-scalers are probably always going to be the focus, because they buy, and you’ve got no in-buying cycles. You’ve got known prices that they’ll pay. And they’re very credit-worthy.”

“So the ability for the crypto-currency miners to actually have an impact on the economy and be your primary customer source, rather than one of the OTTs or web-scalers, I think that’s in its infancy,” he concluded. “I think what’s happened is, the adoption of crypto-currencies, and there are over 1300 crypto-currencies, I think that it has to come to a stability in the system where people will say that my goods and my services will be paid for. It’s worth it. That’s what props up the U.S. Dollar. And at that point you remove the volatility from it, and it’ll start making the impact. But for now, it seems very early.”

Check out previous CAPRE Insider Reports covering this panel:

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