Electronic files storage growing into $2-million second centre

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Fusepoint’s data expands into another Harbour Centre floor

Peter Wilson

Fusepoint Managed Services is ‘the boiler room of the computer age,’ CEO George Kerns says. Photograph by : Glenn Baglo, Vancouver Sun

As visitors often note ruefully, the computer servers in Fusepoint Managed Services’ Vancouver data centre look out — unseeing — on a magnificent panorama of Burrard Inlet.

And the precious electronic files stored within the banks of computers on a top floor of downtown’s Harbour Centre are even more cosseted than Vancouver executives with a similar view.

They’re likely a lot more secure, too.

Not surprising, because this is what Fusepoint’s major clients — including Tim Hortons, the Royal Canadian Mint, Maple Leaf Foods, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Air Transat — demand for their information.

The servers inside this 5,000-sq.-ft. area sit on racks bolted to a floating steel frame built to withstand an earthquake rated at eight on the Richter scale.

Walls surrounding the computers are reinforced with steel mesh. Vibration sensors and fire-suppressant nozzles are everywhere. The climate-controlled environment is backed with four air-conditioning units with 20 tons of cooling power.

The information that flows to and from client networks is carried through data lines from three separate Internet service providers, in case one of them should go down.

Not only are they monitored around the clock from a control centre but they never need fear they’re going to lose electricity. Fusepoint relies initially on three separate BC Hydro power feeds coming into the centre. Should these fail, it can turn to two uninterrupted power systems — one of which could use a quarter of its power to keep the centre operating for eight hours. These are backed up by a diesel generator on a nearby rooftop that has a 24-hour supply of fuel. That fuel comes from both union and non-union suppliers, in case a labour dispute might cut off the flow.

And that’s to say nothing of the security in place to keep intruders from gaining physical access or hackers from coming in through the Net.

And now privately held Fusepoint — which began its life in 2001 as a Vancouver-based company called RoundHeaven Communications — is duplicating that environment in a $2-million second data centre on another Harbour Centre floor to keep up with customer demand for its services.

“So many companies [that] came out around the 2000 and 2001 time frame went down,” said Dickson Au, co-founder of the company. “Yet we managed to survive and even thrive.”

Today Fusepoint has offices in British Columbia, headquarters in Ontario, a data centre in Montreal as well as access to available space, through partners, in Calgary and Quebec City.

This success is a result of the maturing nature of the information age, said Fusepoint’s CEO George Kerns

“As more and more things have been deployed on the Internet, people are looking for a highly secure, highly available infrastructure to operate on,” said Kerns.

Most companies, he added, don’t want to spend their money on or worrying about a data centre.

“So, we’re the boiler room of the computer age,” said Kerns. “We sweat the details”

The Vancouver operation employs 20 people out of the company’s 160 employees.

“They form the core of our technical team, and include a lot of the original people,” said Kerns, who added that Fusepoint is now competing with giants like IBM.

“There are a lot of companies out there that haven’t had a lot of options on who they deal with. And they’d like to have some alternatives.”

© The Vancouver Sun 2007


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