Up-Close with Michel Chartier at CAPRE’s Montréal Data Centre Summit: 5 Big Players are Getting Even Bigger

MONTRÉAL, QUÉBEC – CAPRE’s Third Annual Greater Montreal & Quebec Data Centre Summit was a day of rousing panels that covered a diverse array of topics – from data center leasing to innovation in AI to engineering and connectivity. One early morning presentation took a similarly broad view of, featuring an up-close interview with Michel Chartier, President of Kelvin Emtech, on the market dynamics in the Canadian data center arena.

New Event SquareMichel, tell us about your footprint. You’re based here in Montréal, and you’re very active across Canada,” suggest moderator Brian Klebash, CEO of CapRate Events. “Are you active in the U.S. as well?”

“As a consultant. We don’t design or build in the U.S., but we do consulting for specific customers,” replied Chartier. “We have an office in Montréal and one in Toronto. We created Kelvin Emtech in 1994 and this January was our 25th year. We have designed and built more than 4 million square feet of rack space. We’ve designed and built for 4degrees, CGI, Rodgers, Cogeco, we’ve done quite a bit. For CGI, we do the preparation and maintenance of their data centers in Montréal and also other sites across Canada.”

“Let’s talk about this market specifically. Michel, are you seeing more activity year to year? What’s happening specifically?” asked Klebash.

Michel Chartier, President, Kelvin Emtech

“In the last 2-3 years, the small deployments have stopped growing. It’s now really, the big data centers. The hyperscale data centers. The big players, Amazon, Google, are all coming in. The smaller players are being purchased by the big ones,” replied Chartier. “So you’re seeing about five players who are growing, and growing big. But it’s less of the smaller players. It’s not a market like you had six or seven years ago, with ten data center providers trying to grow and grow.

“How many data center providers do you expect to see ten years from now?” piqued Klebash in response.

“In the hyperscale game, I’d say about 6-10,” tersely replied Chartier. “And in the smaller areas, like Québec, you’ll still have smaller data centers growing up. But in Montréal it’ll mainly be those big players.”

“Are you seeing new entrants to the market? Or is it too difficult to get in at this point?” asked Klebash, getting in one more question before moving the spotlight to panelist Anthony Bolner of Stream Data Centers.

“I have a lot of customers that want to get in. But the biggest challenge that they have is that to attract some money, to try to build, you need to have some first-signed customers. it’s like the chicken and the egg. You need the first signed contract, the first signed lease, to get money,” mused Chartier.

“But to get money, you need customers for something you have built already. So we’re still running into the same pattern here in Montréal. It’s different in the U.S. In Montréal the guys with money are more risk-averse. In the U.S., they’re more willing to take some risk. They’re building out, out of nothing, to attract customers, and it works for them. So it’s hard to get into the market here. People want to see something real, something built out already,” he concluded.

Anthony Bolner & Michel Chartier, President, Kelvin Emtech provide leadership at CAPRE’s Third Annual Greater Montréal & Québec Data Centre Summit