Government of Canada Data Centres

Canadians rely on government programs and services such as benefits payments, border security and weather forecasting. These services are delivered through computer applications, similar to the type Canadians might have on their smart phones – except more powerful.

To deliver those services safely and without interruption, the Government of Canada must provide a modern, reliable and secure information technology (IT) infrastructure. IT infrastructure refers to the hardware, software, networks and facilities necessary to develop, test, deliver, monitor, control and support IT services.

Shared Services Canada (SSC) houses this infrastructure within data centres.

What exactly is a data centre?

Simply put, SSC defines a data centre as one or more servers situated in a room that is at least 100 square feet or more and has its own power or air conditioning.

Approximately 14,000 applications are being hosted on physical and virtual servers inside federal government data centres across Canada. Of our approximately 700 data centres, 90 percent are simple rooms in office buildings.

Departments and agencies depend on data centres to help them protect the safety, security and well-being of Canadians 24/7, 365 days a year.

What do data centres do?

Data centres operate and manage vast:

  • telecommunications networks
  • data processing systems
  • centralized data storage
  • data centre equipment, such as servers, network switches and mainframes

What’s in a name?

Legacy Data Centre

  • The term “Legacy Data Centre” refers to older data centres that were established by the Government of Canada and served individual departments or a cluster of departments. These locations were rarely built as data centres, but evolved based on organizational needs

Enterprise Data Centres

  • The term “Enterprise Data Centre” or EDC, refers to newer, larger, state-of-the art data centres that serve the entire government as a whole. EDCs are designed to eliminate the need for planned shutdowns for maintenance.

To ensure that operations and data are safe, enterprise data centres are equipped with high-tech fire detection and suppression systems, temperature and humidity controls, power and data backup services as well as cyber security systems.

SSC defines Government of Canada data centres as:

  • stand-alone buildings or rooms within buildings
  • measuring between 100 square feet or more
  • equipped with dedicated electrical or cooling equipment

IT equipment is defined as:

  • computer servers
  • data storage devices
  • network routers and switches
  • other components

How many data centres are there?

The Government of Canada currently has data centres located across Canada.

When SSC started operating in 2011 the exact number of data centres was not fully defined. The initial number of data centres across Canada was identified as 485. These varied from minor spaces to major data centres.

As SSC evolved, it discovered smaller data centres that were scattered across the country so the actual number increased to approximately 800.

SSC has closed 92 data centres to date. On April 1, 2017, SSC still operated approximately 700 data centres.

Bonus byte

  • SSC has more than 150 petabytes of data for 43 Government of Canada departments and agencies

  • fifty percent of that storage is at the end of its useful life

  • fifty petabytes of data storage is enough to hold all of the written works ever produced by humankind, in all languages

Data centre consolidation and modernization

Advances in technology are allowing governments and organizations worldwide to revolutionize the way they deliver programs and services to their clients. The Government of Canada is no exception and we are undertaking the largest and most complex modernization of IT services in Canadian history. Data centre consolidation and modernization is a huge part of this modernization.

SSC undertook the consolidation and modernization of data centres after consulting with customers and industry experts and analyzing the current and future IT requirements for the Government of Canada.

Under the Data Centre Consolidation Program, SSC will

  • consolidate approximately 700 legacy data centres spread out across the country to seven or fewer in Ontario, Quebec and possibly western Canada
  • reduce data centre space across Canada by 60 percent, from 56,000 m2 to 17,000 m2
  • reduce the Government of Canada carbon footprint by 40 percent by 2024-2025, by reducing data centre space and building and/or leasing state-of-the-art data centres with built-in green technology and energy efficiency
  • leverage faster, better, greener and more secure technology to increase security against physical and cyber threats

Data Centre Consolidation:

Newer, state-of-the-art, enterprise data centres, which SSC is currently operating and procuring in 2017, have 10 times the capacity of older “legacy” data centres.

On April 1, 2017, SSC managed 20,000 computer servers

  • many of the data centres in which they were housed were more than 30 years old
  • these older data centres were still operating at full capacity due to continual and progressive demand growth

These legacy data centres have aged to the point where many of them are at, or near, their end-of-life and some of the equipment is no longer covered under warranty or maintenance contracts.

To mitigate this, SSC has been actively replacing much of the older and more vulnerable equipment. Budget 2016 provided $463 million in funding to support a multi-year program to stabilize mission-critical systems and strengthen IT security. Much of the procurement was done in 2016 with installation of the equipment proceeding into 2017-2018. These stabilization efforts will allow SSC to keep the legacy data centres operating as we move toward our future enterprise data centres.

Are any of these newer enterprise data centres open yet?

  • Enterprise Data Centre Borden
    • Government operated EDC Borden has existed since the late 1970s. In May 2016, the Honourable Judy M. Foote, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada and Minister responsible for Shared Services Canada, announced a 25-year, $322M public-private partnership contract for the expansion of EDC Borden, located at Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ontario.
    • Phase 1 will be open and ready to receive IT systems in fall 2017. The expansion will:
      • provide additional physical space and growth potential and will be equipped with modern, energy-efficient power distribution and cooling systems
      • increase the Government of Canada’s physical and cyber security, as well as storage and bandwidth capacity
      • qualify as a silver standard, green building with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design® (LEED).Footnote 1
  • Enterprise Data Centre Gatineau and Enterprise Data Centre Barrie
    • SSC signed contracts for up to 25 years with Bell Canada for the Gatineau site and with IBM for Barrie to provide the Government of Canada with commercially owned and operated data centre facilities.
  • Enterprise Data Centre Montréal
    • SSC is in the process of procuring data centre services in the Montréal area. EDC Montréal will house mostly Government of Canada science-related workloads and applications however it will not be limited to this type of workload.
    • As a result, EDC Montreal must be located within 70 kilometres (fibre distance) of the new High Performance Computer (HPC) data centre in the general vicinity of Montréal, to allow application-sensitive, high speed data transmission between the two locations.
    • Once operational, EDC Montréal will also have the capacity to support SSC staff working with supercomputers, the fastest computers on earth. The site is expected to be ready to receive IT systems in summer 2018.

How will SSC accomplish this data centre consolidation and by when?

So far, we have already closed 92 legacy data centres with no loss of service or data.

Three new enterprise data centres are now operational - EDC Gatineau, EDC Barrie and EDC Borden. The expansion of EDC Borden is expected to be completed by fall 2017 with IT systems migration to follow in late fall.

SSC will continue to consolidate data centres by closing aging data centres between 2017 and 2024 and migrating applications and data to the newer, more secure enterprise data centres.

Some data centres are easier than others to close, depending on their size and the complexity of the applications that must be moved.

Legacy (Older) Data Centres Enterprise (New) Data Centres
Approximately 700 legacy (older) centres (April 1, 2017) Seven or fewer enterprise (newer) centres
56,000 m2 in total spread out in data centres across Canada 17,000 m2 in total in seven or fewer data centres in Ontario, Quebec and possibly western Canada
70 petabytes of storage 4,258 petabytes of storage

Data centres and the Cloud

More and more organizations are using Cloud computing options to store their data. SSC is developing a Cloud option for the Government of Canada for unclassified data. Making cloud services available to departments and agencies will augment and complement service options for customers. The government of Canada’s eventual storage needs will be met by a hybrid solution of EDCs and public Cloud-based capacity.


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