Nicholas Jeffery: All of the Pieces are in Place, But Canada Needs to Step Up to the Plate
by Josh Anderson
CALGARY, ALBERTA – CapRE’s 2018 Calgary and Alberta Data Center Summit was a resounding success, featuring a full-day of first-rate market analysis and perspective. The opening panel of the day, Greater Calgary Center Market 360: What Firms are Actively Developing, Investing and What are the Unique Regional Advantages from Site Selection, Connectivity and Cost of Power Perspectives? was moderated by Conan Lee, Managing Director at JLL, who kicked off the discussion with a broad question about the Canadian arena as a whole.
“Why did Canada catch your interest? How is it perceived against other data center markets?” asked Lee to Nicholas Jeffery, Chief Executive Officer at Uniserve Communications. For a full perspective, Jeffery had much to say about Canada – but largely he spoke about how it has yet to reach its potential. For example, he shared how he is inundated with calls everyday from people in the U.S. waning more information about Canada. However, according to Jeffery, it’s very difficult to get answers.
“Trying to go to the incumbents and ask actually, what you’ve got and where it’s available? I might as well be talking to my three-year-old child,” he shared. “Because there is no information. There is no data. It’s so difficult to get pricing. Trying to sell something or buy something from these guys, is almost impossible.”
Jeffery believes it’s imperative for Canada to take a fairly aggressive stance on the market if they’re going to step up to the plate. “And we start winning some of this international market!” he exclaimed. “We’re all scrabbling around trying to figure out how to do crypto-currency. Crypto-currency is an 18-month window operation. There is no margin or little margin to it.”
According to Jeffery, Canada boasts three of the largest crypto-currency players in the world, “which we’ve won globally over the last six years,” he recalled. “They’re million-dollar deals. They’re good deals. But you don’t make much money. And the things are like stacking an entire data center full of hairdryers that are on the whole time! They’re not built well. They’re not consistent.”
“We’ve just had to take 700 miners through CSA approval because they all turned up in our lobby from Beijing, and guess what. They weren’t certified,” divulged Jeffery. “So we had to dismantle them. We had to restructure them and everything else.”
“But when I look around the market, and even when I look around the room here, there is a massive amount of talent and a massive amount of opportunity,” Jeffery continued. “We just have to step up the game. Because there is a lot of interest from the ASIA-PAC market, the US market, wanting to come here, but we’ have got to to actually convince the market that we’re as good as Dublin. Which arrived from nowhere 10 years ago.”
Jeffery then shared some fun facts. “Dublin is smaller than Vancouver, and guess what, it rains more,” he asserted. “They now do $70 billion a year in exports for IT services. Dublin, and correct me if I’m wrong, is now bigger than Frankfurt, Paris, London, and Amsterdam, per quarter, put together! And they have done it in ten years.”
The bottom line, according to Jeffery, is that Canada needs to kick it into high-gear. “We need to work with economic development, we need to work with provinces, and they need to stop arguing about pipelines, and get your act together, and do something serious,” he advised. “And I think that the data center market can be a fairly fundamental part of foreign direct investment in Canada.”