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02/04/2013
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Report written by Hugo Bonaffe


BHS takes the next step


Three months after the official launch of OVH.com's North American datacenter, a second tower of servers (BHS2) is already under construction. This will bring the total capacity of BHS up to 20,000 servers by the beginning of July. Jérôme Arnaud, director of operations for the hosting provider's North American subsidiary and Fabrice Fossaert, BHS operating manager, give their first observations on infrastructure and clients.







A progressive growth, speeding up with demand


The BHS datacenter, established in the old Rio Tinto Alcan buildings, occupies 60,000 m2 of Beauharnois' industrial park. To redevelop the site and bring it into operation, OVH.com invested 30 million dollars in 2012, and has 130 million planned for the entire project.It is a progressive development, its pace in sync with clients' demand. The plan is to build 36 towers, with each tower housing 10,000 machines. Towers are constructed to meet customer demand. Before a tower reaches maximum capacity, OVH begins construction on another, assuring servers are delivered to customers without delay. This is why the OVH.com team has been working hard these last few days to begin the construction of BHS2. The newest tower will house servers as early as July. These servers will be produced at the provider's own production line also located in Beauharnois. "The project is going as planned, but its execution is faster than we projected", said Fabrice Fossaert. Finally, for the network, the load increase is happening peacefully: the active BHS servers consume a bandwidth of around 30 Gbps, of the 520 Gbps available on OVH.com’s entire North American network, which has been recently upgraded.









Reliable installations, even at -22°F


The hosting provider developed its server cooling technology, a mix of water with natural ventilation, in temperate climate of northern, France. The harsh Quebec winter therefore was a true test for the
installations: "Thanks to the good insulation of the BHS1 tower, we were able to maintain an ideal 68 to 77°F inside the rooms. During winter, the outdoor air vents are closed; the hot air is extracted from the rooms, then evacuated. This system works perfectly", Fabrice Fossaert happily mentions








Not only North American clients


OVH.com's North American subsidiary is currently managing a park with more than 7,000 servers. Among its clients, more than 50% are Canadians and Americans - the main target of the hosting provider. The other 50% originate from Europe, South American countries and, more recently, Asia. "Every week we register new orders from different countries: Australia, Mexico, Brazil, India, and Thailand. Then, lately, China has started to appear, even though its payment systems like Visa or Paypal are not well developed. In fact, the same phenomenon is often observed: an influential user will praise our services on forums in his country, then we receive tens of orders in the next few days from the same geographical zone", explains Jérôme Arnaud. He even admits that the proportion of clients outside Canada or the US surprises him. A surprise that leads to some side effects: "With the different time zones, our Asian clientele uses our support mainly in the middle of the night. Our teams are available 24/7/365, but because of this, some nights are busier than we initially thought."







The word of mouth works full force


OVH.com's North American growth in activity is built upon the progressive setting up of a community. "In Montreal [where OVH.com's offices are located], when workers take the subway to get to work wearing t-shirts or shirts with the OVH.com logo on them, they often are stopped and questioned. People have read the press releases in newspapers and are curious to know about this business that is making a lot of noise in the area", reports Jerome Arnaud. "If OVH.com now has a certain local recognition, we have to take into account the power of word of mouth 2.0, on forums such as webhostingtalk.com or Twitter."
This phenomenon is similar to OVH.com's beginnings in France, which were historically not widely publicized, as the company was focusing on innovation and the reduction of costs. Some arguments do not need to be placarded everywhere to efficiently circulate.



Prices that will stun you


The prices charged by OVH.com are lowest in the North American market and generate amazement. When the prices are not the direct cause of questioning, it is the configuration of servers. "To have a base of 16 Go of RAM , for a server at 59$/a month is unheard of here. For the same price, other companies offer machines with 1 or 2 Go of memory, with a possible upgrade bringing in more fees. In this context, OVH.com appears like an alien on the hosting market", explains Jerome Arnaud. Among the questions asked by future clients, one of the most frequent is whether the OVH.com prices are long-term, or if they are entry-level price points that will inevitably go up. "When we tell these people that our prices stay the same through time, they do not back down. They ask us about possible hidden fees, which do not exist at OVH.com. We have to discuss with them to reassure them, and often explain in details the innovations and economic model that keep our prices so competitive."







"Clients are testing us"


Once they are reassured, clients are still testing the hosting provider, notes Jérôme Arnaud: "We notice that a certain amount of users start out by renting a small server, for instance KS or SP types. They explore it from A to Z, testing the limits of their machine, measuring the quality of the bandwidth. Then, they contact us, many times, in the middle of the night. They pretend to have trivial questions, while they clearly are trying to test the skills of our support team, its availability and reactivity. Then, at the end of the first month, they let go of their machine to get one or more servers, usually more powerful and expensive, to stock their applications. Our clients are demanding, they want to see the quality of our service for themselves before they switch for a new hosting provider!"







Cloud computing offers soon available


A beta test is now running with fifty participants. "This test allows us to validate the technical side of the upcoming PCC offer (equivalent to the Private Cloud offer in Europe), and adapt it to the needs that will appear to be specific to the North American market", details Jerome Arnaud. After this, the offer will be officially commercialized. Also in the works, the "virtual bay" (VRACK) option, as well as the developing of a storage offer, with the NAS.



Three new datacenters in America in 2015-2017


With its 21 million square meters (more than twice the size of OVH European Data centers), North America is a vast territory. Envisioning the physical proximity between users and their servers, OVH.com projects by 2015-2017 the construction of three new datacenters on the subcontinent. Locations are not only being looked into in Canada but also the United States. The idea is to, on one hand, reduce the access time by some precious milliseconds for the customer. On the other hand, while some customers want to be free of the Patriot Act by hosting content outside American territory, others wish to see servers on American soil and, in some cases, it is a legal obligation. For instance, some businesses are under the "Buy American Act", a protectionist federal law that says that only American products can be
bought for governmental purchases, and even in some cases for projects publicly financed.

The American adventure is just beginning for OVH.com. Lead by teams that are motivated more than ever, Octave Klaba, recently posted on his Twitter account that "the American market is just too exciting!"






Related articles


More information about BHS datacenter and OVH.com in North America:
BHS: an American Dream
The first dedicated server to be delivered in North America
First tests at Beauharnois expected in March