They represent an estimated $10 billion-plus in investment and have the potential to change New Zealand economically, technologically and socially – more than 10 new "hyperscale" data centres being built or upgraded, some involving global names like Microsoft and Amazon.
"If you'd told me a couple of years back that big players like Amazon and Microsoft were going to set up big data zones in New Zealand, I don't think I'd have believed you," says Murray Osborne, Head of Vodafone Infrastructure Partners.
Vodafone is playing a key role in this mushrooming of data centres in New Zealand – working with world-class partner Ciena to supply a network and "the pipes" that will carry enormous volumes of data around New Zealand and internationally and inter-connecting the new data centres.
The scale of the new projects is gripping; Osborne has been shown through one of the new centres in North Auckland – CDC Data Centres' Silverdale operation, one of two (the other in Hobsonville) which are scheduled to open in 2022: "I have never been in such a large building; frankly, it was amazing, awesome."
It's not just the size of the buildings, it's the size of the data operations that is turning heads, known as "hyperscale". There are eight other projects on the way as well as CDC's two. DCI Data Centres is building two on the North Shore at a total cost of about $600m, one of which is slated to be New Zealand's biggest data centre.
Such centres are measured by the amount of power they require at peak operation level. One of the DCI centres is said to be a 40MW plant. Microsoft is building three data centres, there's a Takanini data centre being upgraded to a 10MW facility while Amazon are putting $7.5bn into a cluster (at least three) of data centres which will form an Amazon Web Services (AWS) zone, scheduled to open in 2024.
That list doesn't even include plans for a new, $530m, 60MW data centre in Southland – though funding has yet to be found for a new international fibre cable needed for this to be viable.
There are several motivations for this sudden boom in data centres here. The pandemic has accelerated a boom in cloud computing, or using software and services over the internet. The cloud is a misnomer, of course, as the concept of the cloud in the sky is actually thousands upon thousands of computers housed in giant computer farms.
For businesses and consumers, having data centres in local areas means better performance. It also means banks and government departments don't have to worry about data sovereignty issues that might be an issue if sensitive files are stored in server farms overseas, where different privacy and security laws can apply.
While having local data centres means businesses and consumers will notice less "lag" in things like streaming services and gaming, there is another incentive for the data centres – a big player, the government. Huge data usage by the likes of Internal Revenue, MBIE, Police and Justice are sure to have been figured into the business cases of many of the yet-to-be built data centres.
Osborne says CDC are building their two data centres exactly to the specifications of their large operation in Australia – where they have captured a large percentage of federal government data, including highly sensitive material which is classified all the way from "Confidential" to "highly sensitive", he says.
Government data and the public cloud will likely be transformed, he says, and you don't have to look very far round the world to see other drivers of data centre growth:
- Global cloud services are predicted to reach US$1.3 trillion by 2025
- Globally, 60 per cent of downstream internet traffic is video streaming
- Every minute, there are 500-plus hours of content uploaded to Youtube
- The global market for telemedicine is predicted to reachUS$175 billion by 2025
- Europe added 70 small data centres in 2020, North America 50 and there are now 541 hyperscale data centres globally, with Google and Amazon the biggest players.
"There will also be a big social element," says Osborne. "It won't be long before 50 per cent of the work force will be millennials and they have a work-life balance ethic and really want that flexible, work-from-anywhere ability in their work."
Vodafone's role is encapsulated in a new service – Vodafone Data Centre Connect (DCC). It provides a nationwide fabric, connecting data centres directly to each other, delivering point-to-point connectivity between data centres in New Zealand and public clouds.
It gives the network the highest degree of agility and flexibility with the ability to send any service anywhere in the network, dynamically – but is a competitive and simple commercial construct, one end-to-end product.
"Having secure, reliable and high-performing connectivity services is critical for large data centres, and Vodafone Data Centre Connect is a game-changer in New Zealand," says Osborne. "We've designed this solution with built-in redundancy to secure network availability and result in a decreased failure risk along critical data paths.
"Tapping into Ciena's global expertise, Vodafone Data Centre Connect is designed with security and reliability at the forefront. It's going to be awesome for New Zealand."
For more information, please visit www.vodafone.co.nz/infrastructurepartners.