IBM to build $80m data centre two months after systems mayhem

By Simon Hendery

The IBM centre under construction at East Tamaki's Highbrook Business Park is due to open late next year. Photo / Supplied
The IBM centre under construction at East Tamaki's Highbrook Business Park is due to open late next year. Photo / Supplied

IBM has said it will spend $80 million building a data centre in Auckland, two months after a fault at its current facility caused mayhem for Air New Zealand.

The IT services company has been planning the data centre, to be built at Highbrook Business Park in East Tamaki, since before the October outage at its Newton site.

A faulty back-up power generator has been blamed for the incident, which crippled Air New Zealand's booking and check-in systems for six hours on the last day of the school holidays, disrupting the travel plans of about 10,000 passengers.

The East Tamaki data centre is being built by business park developer Highbrook Development, and IBM will take a long-term lease on the site.

IBM's $80 million investment covered construction of the building, fitting out the data centre and its running costs for the next ten years.

IBM New Zealand managing director Jennifer Moxon said the new facility would include world-class environmentally-friendly technology and was being built with a view to allowing expansion at the site to meet future computing and data storage requirements of IBM clients.

Construction has started on the 1500sq m centre which is due to open late next year.

Moxon said the centre would be designed to meet IBM customers' growing demand for "cloud computing" capacity - the centralised storage of vast amounts of data.

Brett O'Riley, chief executive of IT industry body the NZICT Group, said the new facility would provide world-class computing facilities to local businesses and help the country's high-tech growth ambitions.

It is unclear, however, whether Air New Zealand will be amongst those IBM customers who take advantage of the new facility.

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe lambasted IBM the day after the October systems crash, saying in a company memo: "In my 30-year working career, I am struggling to recall a time where I have seen a supplier so slow to react to a catastrophic system failure such as this and so unwilling to accept responsibility and apologise to its client and its client's customers."

Fyfe called IBM's handling of the incident amateurish and ordered a review of the relationship between the two companies.

Since October both companies have declined to comment on the nature or outcome of negotiations between themselves.

Yesterday Moxon said the two companies had a 12-year working relationship and IBM was very committed to working with Air New Zealand and supporting its future growth plans and business needs.

Asked if that sentiment was reciprocated she said she could not comment on the details of a relationship with a client.

According to senior IT industry sources, one issue facing the ageing Newton data centre is it is running at full-power capacity and as a result additional computing equipment can not be added at the site.

IBM leases the Newton facility from its owner, Air New Zealand, and has a contract to manage the airline's computing services based at the site.

Moxon said that arrangement would continue and the new Highbrook facility was not intended to replace the Newton operation.

- NZ Herald

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