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The Road Map to Off-Premise Compute Winds Through Vancouver Thanks to the VFX Industry

Dec 4, 2018
by Josh Anderson

VANCOUVER, BC — Barb Mitchell, Vice-President for the Candian Market and Account Strategy at JSA was a featured speaker at CapRE’s inaugural Vancouver Data Center Summit, where she moderated the panel “The Road Map to Off-Premise Compute: The End-User Approach to the Cloud, AI, SaaS and Tomorrow’s Compute Needs and Initiatives”, which included an extensive deep dive into the lay of the land in Vancouver’s tech sector – specifically, the burgeoning visual effects industry.

data center summit“Our panelists today are going to talk a little bit about what this means from a data center perspective and from an end user perspective,” began Mitchell, looking to panelist Todd Coleman, President and CEO, Estruxture Data Centers. “So, what opportunities does this create and how are they able to come up with different solutions? I’m going to go to you Todd first to kick it off with what any of that means to you.”

“So for those of you that heard this earlier, the visual effects market segment is one of our key, what I would describe as communities,” began Coleman. “They’re just growing within our data centers. Today, inclusive of scale, we probably have in Montréal alone, six of the seven studios that are there, which pales by comparison to Vancouver. Scalar is an important partnership of ours. It’s been important for several years. It started off in Montréal and frankly, they were a big reason why we ventured into the Vancouver market.”

“As I mentioned, I’ve been in and around the Vancouver market for five or six years. I started with a previous company that also has operations here,” he shared. “But if you look at where we started to acquire data centers and chose to expand, it was right in the “Hollywood North” area of Mt. Pleasant. And Scalar, for example, is not just from our perspective, just a distribution partner, but a technology partner. They’re probably the lead in terms of bringing in the VFX studios and providing them with on-demand capacity to burst in as they need to.”

Todd Coleman, President, eStruxture Data Centers

“What’s unique about the VFX community is that it’s slightly different from a comment that I made earlier, when I jokingly said that data centers are like Hotel California,” mused Coleman. “You can come in but you likely won’t leave. that means that it’s really sticky, the processing goes 24×7 and it’s mission-critical. What’s unique about the VFX community in particular is that it’s peaky. It’s only while you’re in production of a particular motion picture that there’s demand.”

“And when that demand is going on, it’s very mission-critical. But that demand will last two months, four months, six months, and then, between productions that demand may go down to be very little,” he continued. “And what’s unique about this relationship and I’ll let Stephan tell you about their strategy, is that when you have multiple of these VFX studios, and most of them aren’t on the same calendar, you can spread that demand across a large cluster and give those studios economies of scale.”

“For us it’s interesting because we can plan with the studios about where the capacity is and when they’re going to need peak-load and when they’re not going to need peak-load, which is very unique to this market segment,” shared Coleman. “More importantly we can work with folks like Stephan’s team and whether they bring the studio in or we bring the studio in, we can offer a unique set of capacity planning and tools that that those studios aren’t necessarily used to.”

“So for example if you talk to a studio, they’ll tell you that their constant demand is here, their peak demand is there, and their challenge is whether to deploy the capital for the peak demand or the constant demand,” concluded Coleman, wrapping up his first topic. “And the gap in there is where a Scalar can come in and really help them manage their demand profile. So for us, it’s yet another market segment. We’re big believers in building communities of interest and the film studios are a significant reason why we see the market in Vancouver growing precipitously in the next five years.”

For more coverage of this panel, check out an earlier CapRE Insider Report: VFX, Film Production & Tax Incentives: Vancouver Soaring to New Heights in Many Ways

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