A data centre for Whangarei?

April 2nd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Inc chairman Colin Mitten and a group of local businessmen are hatching an audacious plan to build a $125 million data centre in Marsden near Whangarei.

The proposed data centre would be the first “Tier 4” data centre in Australasia, meaning it should be less prone to outages than even the relatively modern facilities built in New Zealand over the past few years by Datacom and IBM.

Mitten said the facility could benefit from, but was not dependent on, Hawaiki Cable’s plan to build a new trans-Pacific fibre-optic communications cable and land it at Bream Bay, near Whangarei.

He believed the chances of that US$350m (NZ$403m) cable project going ahead were “better than 50:50”. Hawaiki’s chief executive, former Alacatel-Lucent executive Remi Galasso, moved his family to New Zealand a few months ago which Mitten took to be a sign of his commitment.

“We mean to engage with Hawaiki further in terms of, ideally, co-locating the termination of the cable,” Mitten said. However, he said there was no formal partnership between the cable and data centre ventures as yet. …

He envisaged the facility would comprise eight 500 square-metre halls, each capable of hosting about 350 racks of computer equipment. However, ACCL would start by kitting out only two to reduce its start-up costs. The $125m expected budget would be the total for setting up the facility and fitting out all eight halls.

At the moment, there are only a small number of true Tier 4 data centres, in the United States and Europe, and none in Australasia, Mitten said. “It sets a very high benchmark in terms of the security of data.

“We have an unparalleled opportunity to attract some of the world’s biggest companies and create exponential job and economic growth opportunities in the region, and the next few years will be crucial to this endeavour,” he said.

Sounds a great initiative. Not sure how the business case will stack up, but would be a great economic boost to Northland if they can make it happen

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27 Responses to “A data centre for Whangarei?”

  1. dime (9,787 comments) says:

    Awesome! Hope it can work

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  2. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (866 comments) says:

    Listen guys:

    (a) Business case doesn’t make any sense
    (b) Greens will oppose this on the basis that the snails in this region will be affected. Cunliffe will support the Green’s position as he has no position on anything
    (c) Dotcom will start a rumour that this is not a data centre but a spy centre for US government. Hone will whip up a frenzy and Minto will organise a protest.

    God will decide not to save NZ from these lunatics.

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  3. anonymouse (709 comments) says:

    @Sir Cullen,

    Your point c) is not far off the truth

    It is seriously rumored that the cornerstone investor (capacity purchaser) in the Hawaiki cable is the US DoD ( yip the same DoD that operate the NSA), they want dedicated capacity to the new Marine Base in Darwin, all those GIs gotta Skype home to smallville USA somehow.

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  4. peterwn (3,233 comments) says:

    One was built in Wanganui years ago for the ‘law enforcement system’. Then the system was transferred to leased mainframes elsewhere and AFAIK the Fort Knox type building is now a low office or something. The system was developed and implemented quite successfully at the time and was for courts, police and traffic officers – it held criminal records and various police databases (like the secret ‘modus operandi’ database).

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  5. holysheet (323 comments) says:

    My first thought about this was why build it at sea level?
    If we are prone to rising seas in the near future or the risk of a tsunami,I would have thought building inland way above sea level would make more sense.

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  6. wreck1080 (3,852 comments) says:

    Just like the data center that HP were going to construct in Tuakau?

    I have serious doubts this will happen.

    Great if it does though!!!

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  7. davidp (3,570 comments) says:

    peterwn>One was built in Wanganui years ago for the ‘law enforcement system’.

    I’m struggling to understand the relevance of this. You do realise that the last data center built is NZ WASN’T built back in the 1970s?

    anonymouse>they want dedicated capacity to the new Marine Base in Darwin

    The “base” is a few hundred Marines who rotate in and out of the NT for training. Building submarine cables to support training exercises seems like massive overkill. If you didn’t need the capacity to support Pine Gap, then why would you need it for a few hundred guys running around the bush?

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  8. Monty (974 comments) says:

    I am waiting for Cunliffe to criticise this because
    1. Wrong type of jobs
    2. They are not paying a living wage
    3. National mates and crony capitalism
    4. Might encourage gambling and other social problems
    5. The call centre will send the profits off overseas.

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  9. Colville (2,235 comments) says:

    How many jobs?

    It will need a nuke reactor to power the air conditioning to keep it all cool up there :-)

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  10. infused (651 comments) says:

    Won’t stack up. Revera are building them left right and center. So is Telecom.

    Tier4 DC = Tier4 cost. Not going to fly.

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  11. davidp (3,570 comments) says:

    Infused… Telecom IS Revera. Maybe you mean Datacom, who have built in Albany and Hamilton in recent years. I agree with your conclusion tho… NZ has no requirement for that class of data center, and we don’t have any scale or pricing advantages that would make us an attractive option for international organisations with the sort of requirements for tier 4.

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  12. tvb (4,307 comments) says:

    And don’t forget the taniwha, which could be paid off quite easily with koha to all the cuzzies.

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  13. Jack5 (5,001 comments) says:

    Might be fine for NZ internal demand, but I think we’ve thrashed out before that there would be too much latency for NZ data centres to be competitive internationally. Even within the US they are moving close to the big centres of demand. We are too far away and micro-seconds mount up with vast quantities of data being moved.

    Earlier the prospect of NZ as a base for big data centres was used by PR/lobbyists in support of a second trans-Pacific cable.

    Apart from latency, NZ’s position in an earthquake zone and the dependency on just one or even two ocean cables, mitigate against international data centres being based here.

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  14. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    There’s a gut of data centre space, prices are falling. Tier 4 in Northland ?

    The demand isn’t there and the latency too high for international clients.

    Never going to happen.

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  15. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (866 comments) says:

    Just thinkin….Dotcom could fund this?!?!

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  16. OneTrack (2,959 comments) says:

    “Just thinkin….Dotcom could fund this?!?!”

    We just need Russel and Dave to cancel his extradition (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more) and it’s good to go. Who cares what the courts will say anyway.

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  17. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    I spent 6 months on and off working on a stalled project for a tier 3 data centre, the money couldn’t be made to work.

    The difference between tier 3 and 4 isn’t all that much, just some better cooling and a little bit closer to five 9s than four 9s.

    In order to make this work, you need a foundation client that is going to take a lot of space. The number of people in NZ that size you can count on your fingers.

    You need serious international credibility in order to attract these guys and a record of running these before; start ups don’t work well in this area.

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  18. WineOh (624 comments) says:

    Seems like such an odd location. Whangarei isn’t really known as a great hub of IT technology, where is the pool of qualified professionals in the surrounding area, and the business infrastructure to support it? Wouldn’t it make more sense to put it on the outskirts of Hamilton or Wellington or Palmerston North? Sure the land may be cheap out by Whangarei, but just seems weird.

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  19. davidp (3,570 comments) says:

    WineOh>where is the pool of qualified professionals in the surrounding area

    Not required. It needs a tiny handful of IT professionals to handle the operations and the hardware maintenance. The rest of the staff are security guards and similar. Data centers employ very few people.

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  20. rangitoto (231 comments) says:

    IBM built one of the more recent DC’s in the Auckland area out at Highbrook and I hear that it is nearly full, so there does appear to be demand. I gather it is rated as 3+ on IBM’s own scale. I don’t know how IBM’s scale relates to the usual tier 1 through 4 ratings.

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  21. wrightingright (148 comments) says:

    > davidp: “Data centers employ very few people.”

    Bingo, we’ve found the reason why Cunliffe is going to criticise it!

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  22. griffith (1,111 comments) says:

    isn’t that the dream ?

    Data center.

    Information tech.

    Hub.
    connected

    high-grade.

    Northland.

    All good.lots of value

    But ffs not to reliant on the sands and coast near Marsden.

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  23. Alan (1,087 comments) says:

    Data centres employ a lot of contractors in the build process. Most of these will be fifo staff from offshore.

    During the day to day operations they employ a minimum wage security guard.

    What they need is large amounts of power for operations and cooling. There has been a trend in the US to move data centres north to Oregon and Washington state, where free cooler air can be used.

    If anywhere in NZ is a good place to build one, it’s the deep south where it’s cold and there is a power glut due to the smelter closing down.

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  24. backster (2,135 comments) says:

    Northland ? where the Tikanga is to reject development, or settlement of past grievances. and the culture is un-employment and the receipt of handouts seems an odd choice of location.

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  25. FortifiedDataCenters (2 comments) says:

    Congratulations – not only is the Northland Inc initiative an excellent, completely do-able, value added proposition it is one well within New Zealand’s expertise and capability whilst leveraging pre-existing US based IP.

    The Uptime Institute is the global data center authority or governing body for the various Tier ratings; http://blog.uptimeinstitute.com/about https://twitter.com/UptimeInstitute

    https://twitter.com/FortifiedDC_s
    FortifiedDataCenters@gmail.com
    http://fortifieddatacenters.lock-box.net

    https://twitter.com/HardStructures
    HardenedStructures.NZ@gmail.com
    http://www.HardenedStructures.co.nz

    https://twitter.com/northlandinc

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  26. gump (1,604 comments) says:

    Data centers really don’t create jobs. The administration and operations are almost entirely automated (as they should be).

    Whangarei doesn’t make a lot of sense. But I wish good luck to the promoters.

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  27. FortifiedDataCenters (2 comments) says:

    Fortified Data Centers https://twitter.com/FortifiedDC_s

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