NZ to steal datacentres from Australia?

The boss of Pacific Fibre says that New Zealand could have a great future as the datacentre hub of the South Pacific.

The boss of Pacific Fibre says that New Zealand could have a great future as the datacentre hub of the South Pacific.

Mark Rushworth notes that the country is centrally placed between the USA and Asia, and is "politically safe and neutral".

With global companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon keen to use renewable energy, New Zealand can deliver, since the bulk of its power comes from such "green" sources — like hydro-electricity and geothermal sources.

Rushworth even cites the geothermal wonderland of Rotorua/Taupo as being perfect for such datacentres, since it contains geothermal plants, as well as hydro-electricity.

I know that he is doing his bit to drum up business for his 12,750km, NZ$400 million undersea cable that will stretch from the USA to Asia, via New Zealand and Australia, but Rushworth does have a good point.

Indeed, Gartner last month said that since 50 per cent of operating costs are associated with cooling, energy consumption costs and efficiency will be a dominant trend in datacentre operations for the next five years. According to Gartner, Australia's high carbon-intensive energy generation (92 per cent of Australia's energy is sourced from fossil fuels) isn't ideal for the development of a long-term green IT services sector.

New Zealand, on the other hand, received Gartner's praise, being called "comparatively green", and "a low-emission-intensity country".

"We anticipate that the parallel growth in sustainable service differentiation, and the risks associated with future costs on emission-intensive electricity, will result in growth in globally distributed IT services in geographies that can boast an established blend of electricity generation dominated by low-emission sources," said Gartner research vice president Marcus Blosch.

Energy isn't the only factor that would make the country perfect for datacentre operations.

First, the country already has major datacentres, with IBM's $80 million centre being just one of many from the big boys. Smaller companies operate them, too.

New Zealand has plenty of skilled workers who will work at reasonable rates, or at least at cheaper rates than Australians.

Kiwis also speak English, the language of North America and the tongue of Asian scientists and technical workers.

In addition, the recent Christchurch earthquakes have fuelled a demand for the supply of cloud computing and off-site storage.

You might question whether quake zones are safe for such datacentres, but it should be noted that the existing centres carried on as normal during the quakes, showing how they can operate in the toughest of conditions. That gives them proven experience that other centres will lack.

New Zealand's own ultra-fast broadband (UFB) program will also foster the development of such centres, too, with fast broadband becoming available across more of the country.

It is interesting to see that Rushworth cites the example of Iceland, placed between London and New York, which has similar ambitions.

New Zealand and Iceland are also in "the middle of nowhere", which should help keep them away from the attention of terrorists.

Both countries can also offer any imported technical or managerial staff a high quality of life in a pleasant location. After all, whether you chose the South Island, with its hydro lakes, or Taupo/Rotorua, with its geothermal power, both centres look lovely with or without their recent coverings of snow!


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