Interview with AJ Byers, CEO of Root Data Center

AJ Byers is the CEO of ROOT Data Center, a leading Montreal firm that specializes in next-generation colocation that goes beyond reliability and security. AJ leverages over 20 years of experience in the data center industry to support and promote business growth and transformation. Prior to joining ROOT, AJ served as President of Rogers Data Centers, where he was instrumental in leading the team in the development of one of Canada’s largest data center service companies. Additionally, as Executive VP of Primus, he guided the company from its status as a legacy telecom provider, transforming it into a full solution technology services organization.

Mr. Byers will be one of the exhibitors at the Big Data Toronto 2019 conference on June 12 -13.


What is your background?

I grew up in the construction industry, as my dad was a general contractor.  While working with him, I started my first business at 16 years old – doing blueprints for the community we lived in. I went to school for engineering, and right after school, I took a leap of faith and got into the internet space. A group of four of us built an internet company that we later sold to Primus Canada. There was a single data center in that company, which we later expanded to nine across the country inside of Primus, and we eventually sold that data center business to Rogers Communications. As the President of Rogers Data Centers, we then built the second largest data center company in Canada, ultimately running 15 data centers across the country.

Joining ROOT was about changing how the data center industry worked in Canada. I have been with ROOT for almost 5 years now, and it’s been a lot of fun and full of challenges.

What is Root Data Center’s mission?

ROOT’s core focus is challenging the conventional data center model by delivering the most innovative colocation solutions in the country. Our team has a relentless dedication to achieving industry-leading deployment speeds, improving energy efficiency, and increasing power density.

Who are Root Data Center’s customers and how do you create value for them?

The majority of our customers are cloud service providers or companies that behave like them from an IT Infrastructure perspective. The name hyperscalers gets used a lot, though it’s not well defined. These are companies that grow their IT infrastructure very quickly and on very large scales, with deployments in the multi-megawatt range. We have seen that they are under pressure to have IT capacity on an almost on-demand level, being able to scale up their deployment on very short notice. ROOT addresses this by having some of the shortest build times in the industry – delivering multi-megawatt deployments from the start of construction in only 4-5 months.

They also, as almost all businesses do, face downward pressures on budget. In our business, return on capital and the cost of power are the two largest cost factors. The team at ROOT is working to drive project costs down on a continual basis, and by locating in Quebec, ROOT can provide the least expensive power in Canada.

The last big thing we are seeing from our customers is this demand to drive improved awareness of environmental impact. In addition to the very low power rate, electricity is 100 percent renewable. To further help with cost to the customer, we have a very efficient operational power utilization effectiveness (PUE) – which essentially means that we use very little power to run our operations in addition to the power required to run the computing equipment.

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Are most of your customers Artificial Intelligence companies, and if yes, why?

We are seeing Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies become a growing part of the data center customer mix. Many are new companies that deployed in the cloud but are finding that their algorithms and machine learning processes don’t scale efficiently in the cloud. Many are looking at different solutions that can be more cost-effective. In fact, we are seeing AI companies start to look at their IT deployments on an application-by-application level, where some mission-critical apps, such as customer interfaces, have the 100 percent uptime and highly-redundant deployments of a Tier III data center. Other applications, such as the machine learning systems or calculation engines, can be deployed in less costly, less redundant environments where short outages are acceptable. This hybrid approach to deployment can further help AI customers manage their costs.

Walk us through Root Data Center’s products and what problems they solve.

ROOT is about making things simple when it comes to our product mix. We offer Tier III colocation, which has a flavor for large deployments and a flavor for smaller retail deployments that can be as small as one or two cabinets. All of our sites have extensive fiber and telecom connectivity. We offer cloud on-ramps with our partner Megaport for customers who want a hybrid colocation/cloud deployment solution, and we are exploring the idea of hybrid deployments in terms of the levels of redundancy to power supply we were just discussing. We believe that this new approach to hybrid deployments, where organizations will look at each of their applications and determine which should be in a Tier III environment, which should be in the cloud, and which can be in a data center environment with lower redundancy and cost, will help create enormous value for our customers.

What cost and efficiency considerations should AI developers make when deploying applications into a hybrid cloud environment?

ROOT does not get deeply involved at the developer level, but what we have talked about previously is the concept of application-level reliability. If developers can break an end solution into areas of reliability, they can assist in providing savings to the entire implementation in the long run.

There are also considerations on platform portability and being able to push the application from the cloud into a dedicated customer-driven implementation to drive cost down. For example, if an application is developed on a very specific cloud platform, the business would then be trapped into the cost structure of that environment forever, and be subject to ever-increasing costs. All of this to say that the infrastructure and developer teams should work together to give their company the most flexible solution possible for ultimate long-term cost savings.

Tell us about the Root Data Center’s team

ROOT’s team is really what makes up our business. Our leadership team has been in the industry for over 20 years, so there is a very strong foundation that the company is built on. Our technicians and staff are an incredible, dedicated team who have a culture of finding solutions to problems using a first-principles approach. Every staff member is encouraged to find new ways to solve problems more efficiently, to find new approaches to our work, and to help make the customer’s experience better. This is something that we celebrate with the team regularly, and we implement ideas from the team on a regular basis.


Join Mr. Byers at Big Data Toronto

Join Mr. Byers on June 12-13 at Booth D11 to learn more about how ROOT is helping businesses deploy AI and machine learning applications.

Meet with ROOT at Big Data Toronto: Book a time →

Big Data Toronto

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About AI Time Journal Editorial Staff

The mission of AI Time Journal is to divulge information and knowledge about Artificial Intelligence, the changes that are coming and new opportunities to use AI technology to benefit humanity.

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