Big data centres on regional areas
Australia’s data centres are concentrated in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, but that is starting to change as storage and cloud providers and their customers see the advantages of situating them in regional Australia.
For example, Australian-owned cloud, data centre and connectivity provider iseek is set to open a data centre in Townsville shortly.
Founder and managing director Jason Gomersall says the decision to build in Townsville was prompted by a number of local organisations wanting to have a data centre nearby.
“In theory it doesn’t matter where it is but we’re finding government organisations in particular, and also corporates, are starting to care more and more about where their data is hosted and who it’s hosted with,” Gomersall says. “It’s just the security of knowing where it is and who’s got it.”
Regional data centres can also boost the resilience of Australia’s data by boosting the geographic area over which it is spread, he says.
“The internet as such was designed to distribute information globally and does that very efficiently and effectively. Then ironically we go and then concentrate all our data in one geographic location. It seems a little bit counterintuitive to me.
“From a policy perspective, I think the government should be looking at how they sort of spread the data centre load around the nation.”
Gomersall says the cost of connecting regional data centres to capital cities had been an impediment in the past, but this is now being addressed with better infrastructure.
Regional data centres can also play a significant role in local job creation and keeping and developing IT skills in the regions.
In the short term the Townsville data centre will create a handful of jobs but iseek is already starting to consider how it will expand that workforce. Data centres also create indirect jobs, such as the cloud services and hosted services within them.
“If we take a five to 10-year view on this – and when you build a data centre you’re taking a 20 year-plus view – I see significant job creation,” Gomersall says.
“We’re going to create the skills and do the training to build those skills in those areas.”
Joe Craparotta, vice-president secure power at Schneider Electric, says improvements in Australia’s telecommunications infrastructure outside the major carriers has made regional data centres more feasible while the rising cost of land in capital cities has made them more desirable.
Another advantage of housing them in cooler climates such as Toowoomba, where the $40 million Pulse Data Centre supported by Schneider Electric, Telstra and the Queensland government opened last year, is they draw on less power to keep cool.
“The running cost of the data centre can be a lot more efficient and a lot more optimised than a metro data centre,” Craparotta says. “There’s almost free cooling for a big chunk of the year.”
Close to power source
Additionally, they can often have access to good power, being close to the source of generation.
Craparotta says keeping IT skills in the regions will become more important as regional Australia becomes more digital and the use of the internet of things increases, creating further benefits for local industry.
“They have a facility locally they can rely on to help them digitise, either their farm – from paddock to plate – or the local university or school, or just the local businesses in general.”
While he is not suggesting that regional data centres will replace metro data centres, he does expect Australia will have a mix of both.
“I would expect it to be aligned with the population, so I would expect that there’s more regional data centres that are built over the next five years to accommodate the third of the population that is outside metro area,” Craparotta says.
“I’d predict in the next two to three years, we will see a much faster acceleration as the 35 per cent of Australia that lives outside the metro areas becomes more digital and more reliant on those services.”