[Update on this blog:
The NZ government wants to move its computing into the cloud, and initially in 2012 signaled an interest in offshore sites including possibly US ones.
That particular move does not now look likely, but the framework proposed in this blog for providing international cloud computing services from New Zealand, specifically from Invercargill/Tiwai Point region, remains totally relevant].
The New Zealand government wants to switch to using application software in the internet “cloud”, probably by this December (2012). It sees this as being done offshore, likely in the United States, for “significant economies of scale and access to innovation”.
The minister concerned Mr Chris Tremain, did add a need to clarify the security of cloud-based applications and data sovereignty issues.
That could prove difficult. For instance, under its Patriot Act, the US government can require to be given, in secret, any information stored on its soil.
This blog will make some alternative suggestions.
Singapore could be another offshore option. Always forward-looking in this field, it has for decades specialised in developing quality international data-services including, latterly, cloud ones
Unfortunately Singapore, like many other Asian countries, is near the South China Sea where several territorial disputes have been simmering for decades. These are mainly between some Asean countries, which are supported by the United States, and its major geostrategic rival, China. This rivalry has been sharpened by the United States’ geo-strategic “pivot” towards Asia as it moves on from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Singapore supports the military presence of the United States. Over 100 US naval ships call there yearly for maintenance and supplies, and US fighter aircraft regularly deploy there.
In an unstable region where crises can flare up and escalate, Singapore, including its major datacenters, could feel exposed and vulnerable. The professionally risk-averse data service industry puts a high premium on safety and supporting business continuity. For instance, in the September 11 crisis, IBM very quickly whisked important data from New York to Australia.
Could such, potential risks suggest possibilities for a remote, antipodean New Zealand to offer some useful and valued data services?
A few of the comments made on the news report of Chris Tremain’s announcement suggested that New Zealand become an international provider of cloud services, rather than a client.
In a previous life, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key showed great savvy and expertise in the managing of international data flows to make his substantial fortune.
Can he now help to position New Zealand to manage international data flows so that it does well, and helps others to do well?
New Zealand could be better situated than most to frame technology services that blend, in optimal ways, geostrategic, political, legal, economic, and information technology elements, all the more so as cloud technology takes off.
Pacific Fibre’s chief executive Mark Rushworth, as a technology insider, recently contributed very significantly to such framing, albeit in the context of a project that did not manage to muster up the capital it needed. In a well-titled news-report, NZ ‘well positioned’ to be data centre of the Pacific he described New Zealand’s reputation as “politically safe and neutral” country with “a fantastic location for data centres between Asia and the United States”.
He pointed to how Iceland has leveraged its position between London and New York to set up a large international cloud amenities.
It might be added how the small, neutral New Zealand he refers to could be inherently better positioned than large economic and geostrategic actors to offer premium, professionally-based services free of unwonted intrusion. Here, acceptable protocols could be more readily developed, and client “data sovereignty issues” less likely to arise.
In the light of Mark Rushworth’s statement, this blogger would like to commend to the New Zealand government that they explore some questions with potential local and international stakeholders, partners and other supporters to really open up new framing in which mutual potential advantages are defined.
First, are there governments in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere, East and West, developed and developing, that could be interested in New Zealand-located storage and processing for a range of data storage, processing and back-up services?
Why not, also, use the opportunity to explore whether commercial and non-governmental organizations, including the United Nations, might be interested in such amenities?
Can the fact that New Zealanders work while many elsewhere sleep situate them to progress or complete work for others when they start the next day?
A menu could be offered of managed cloud and other services, as well as neutral host amenities, as per requirements.
Of course, the data fibre links to New Zealand are very inadequate for such work. However, if there was a strong demand for their use, this would provide a base from which they could be more readily funded.
The availability of an optimum site could add a strong selling point and help focus (investment and other) minds.
Mark Rushworth also noted about Iceland how it has “an abundance of [geothermal] electricity.”
A large, uninterrupted flow of electricity is fed into New Zealand’s southern-most city, Invercargill from a specially constructed dam at Manapouri. This is to supply an aluminium smelter owned by Rio Tinto.
As it happens, Rio Tinto is complaining that at the current price it pays for electricity the smelter is very uneconomic to maintain and, spurred by the adverse present global economic conditions, it is cutting back production.
It looks like a very good time to begin looking into other ways of using available and potentially available electricity.
It is worth adding that, as well as requiring a lot of electricity, this kind of facility functions most economically in a cooler climate, which gives Iceland another advantage.
Situated at the other end of the globe, Invercargill also has a cool climate even if it is not as cool as Iceland.
The city also has a cool, long-established mayor, Tim Shadbolt who has been known throughout the country for fresh, lateral-thinking since his younger days as mayor of Auckland in the 1980s, at the other end of the country.
Tim, why not look at making Invercargill the Antipodean Capital of the Global Information Society?
Readers’ comments most welcome (see below, easy and no membership needed)
*Source of image: Celebrity Speakers NZ Ltd