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MTS has its head in a $50-million cloud

MTS is getting into the cloud computing business.

The Manitoba telco has announced it will build a $50-million, 70,000-square-foot multi-tenant data centre at an undisclosed location in Winnipeg.

It will be the only commercial data centre of this size in the province.

Kelvin Shepherd, president of the Manitoba operations of MTS, said, "This is a major development for us. We think it will address an unserved opportunity in the local market."

The thinking on MTS's part is that companies are spending more and more on data storage and data services and establishing a locally based service will be attractive to a lot of local users.

Shepherd said the expectation is that most of its business will come from Manitoba customers.

But that is not to say those customers are all lined up already. Making the decision to go to cloud computing or outsourcing data services and storage to a data centre such as the one MTS is going to build requires the facility to be there before that commitment is made.

"We do not have any lead clients at this point," Shepherd said. "But we have done a lot of work, talked to a lot of companies and we really believe there is a demand out there."

The increased volume of digital data storage and commercial services around data usage is growing at a rapid rate.

A recent U.S. study shows demand is outstripping supply of cloud computing services, sometimes by as much as 40 per cent according to CompTIA, a U.S. industry association.

That study, released in September, also made clear substantial growth potential exists in the management and monitoring of cloud services.

Construction of MTS's new data centre will begin in 2014 and is expected to open in 2015, positioning the company to become a leading provider of server co-location, managed hosting and cloud services in Manitoba.

The co-location service means, in addition to running cloud services, the centre will also provide the racks and the power and the cooling so a third party company can install its own servers in the facility.

Although it is a significant investment and will become a strategic piece of infrastructure that Shepherd said may even play a role in attracting new business to the province, it is not likely to require a large workforce.

Once it's up and running, Shepherd said, it may require about 15 employees.

This is MTS's second significant expansion into the IT sector this year. In September, MTS acquired Winnipeg-based EPIC Information Solutions that will provide the skills and expertise needed to effectively operate the new data centre.

EPIC already provides IT infrastructure and managed services to approximately 700 businesses across Manitoba and Saskatchewan and does a small amount of data centre work already.

The facility is being designed to meet the highest industry standards in security and reliability, and qualify for Uptime Institute's Tier III certification.

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