One of the rack rooms at the newly opened Digital Realty data centre in Deer Park, Melbourne. It has dual power supply (blue and amber cabinets). Photo: Paul Jeffers
There’s a buzz in the air. Men and women smartly attired mingle with dignitaries, politicians.
The crowd stands around tall tables, chatting, wine glass in hand. It’s only 2 pm but waiters swerve drinks and gourmet canapé trays around the tightly-packed room. Photographers snap.
The latest art exhibition opening? A book signing perhaps? No. It's the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of Australia’s latest data centre.
Welcome to the new dawn of the technology industry: data centres are the new black.
As our lives turn into a stream of digital files and our businesses into digitally-driven machines, the one common element holding it all together, is data.
Forecasters say more data will be produced in the next two years by internet-connected devices and software-enabled everything, that has been the case in history until now.
This data has to be stored, processed, served, massaged, exploited, preserved somewhere. This is where data centres come in. They are, essentially, where the cloud lives. They are at the centre of connectivity, access, delivery of the services we all demand to keep the world going around.
As Pip Marlow, managing director Microsoft Australia, says, “it’s a whole new exciting trend”.
“A data centre used to be the corner closet in the IT dept. Now they have finger printing, almost DNA testing to get in.”
This particular opening is Digital Realty’s second-phase Deer Park complex in Melbourne, on Thursday November 21.
The $150 million 8690-square metre facility is but one project in $600 million invested in new data centres in Victoria alone in the last 18 months. Sydney has its share too – NextDC had its newest facility, also a $150 million investment, opened by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Macquarie Park in Sydney in September. Brisbane and Perth have also benefited from new facilities. Many more data centres are in the pipeline.
At this new state-of-the-art architect-designed complex, finger printing combined with keycard scanning is used as one of five security layers for entry into rack rooms. Security is tight at the door too. Some data centres don’t even disclose their location, so concerned they and their tenants are with keeping their assets out of harm’s way.
The National Australia Bank occupies the first phase of the complex entirely. This new building doesn't yet have confirmed tenants.
Mike Foust, chief executive of US-based Digital Realty, in Melbourne for the occasion, says more and more companies, and people, are moving to the cloud.
“In the last 18 to 24 months we’re seeing content pick up – files, family photographs, videos, are now stored in the cloud. The medium market and small businesses are also embracing the cloud very readily,” Foust says.
Enterprise and government clients are now realising cloud plans formulated two or three years ago – whether they chose to go with the public cloud (from service providers such as Amazon Web Services), private cloud (one hosted just for them by a third party) or a hybrid solution.
The latest DatacentreDynamics Global Census shows $US105 billion was invested in the sector in 2012, 22.1 per cent more than the year before. The forecast was for another 14.5 per cent growth in 2013. “White space” – the floor area which houses IT equipment – is forecast to grow from 26 million square metres in 2012 to 31 million square meters worldwide this year.
In Asia Pacific, data centre investment was up 24.2 per cent in 2012, forecast to grow similarly in 2013.
Is it the new light at the end of the economic downturn tunnel? After all data centres don’t employ many people once the building is completed.
Victoria Minister for IT, Gordon Rich-Phillips – on hand for the formalities at Deer Park - thinks it’s a good economic driver.
He’s been courting data centre landlords and operators to locate their facilities in the state, albeit without any specific tax or monetary incentive, he says.
“We see ICT as a critical sector, one of our great growth opportunities… also an important driver of productivity in our economy, innovation and also of efficiency,” Rich-Phillips says.
“This investment by Digital Realty is a fantastic commitment. It highlights why this is such an important sector for the ICT industry and why there is such a future in data centre development in Victoria.”
Later, as groups of guests tour the facility’s roof to inspect massive generators, impressive transformers and weather stations, Melbourne’s notoriously varied climate turns the day from overcast to glaringly sunny. No problem for organisers. In keeping with the tone of the red-carpet event, a staffer has a bag of sunglasses at the ready.