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A green data centre industry would unlock new infrastructure and create jobs.

Writing at the New Zealand Herald, Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall makes the case for building a clean, green data centre hub in this country: The green, high tech opportunity NZ can’t afford to miss.

He says:

New Zealand has the opportunity to develop a green data centre industry that serves not only New Zealand government and corporate clients, but could position our country as the leading provider of green data centres to the Asia-Pacific region, much like Scandinavia has done for Europe.

As a global industry, data centre companies and users are leading the way towards carbon neutrality by investing in building new, modern centres that run on green energy. With our country’s high percentage of renewable energy sources, we are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this explosively growing industry.

Tindall is right. We are well placed to do this. Most of our energy is renewable. We have the skills needed to make this work.

We are much better placed to build data centres than a decade ago when Tindall was one of a team of entrepreneurs behind Pacific Fibre. That was an abandoned attempt to build a submarine cable between New Zealand and the West Coast of the USA. Tindall’s thinking was ahead of the game. Now there are four cables connecting New Zealand to the world.

Tindall makes a strong green case for New Zealand pushing further into data centres. It would be good for jobs too.

But there’s another argument for investing in New Zealand data centres. The term isn’t fashionable anymore, but there was a time when our leaders often talked about making New Zealand the Switzerland of the South Pacific. We are, in relative terms, a neutral player in international politics, not a threat to anyone. At the same time we have a mature political and legal system.

Data centres and cloud computing hubs are subject to the laws of the countries they are located in. Our laws are benign. We are not a totalitarian state, nor do we have a worrying state security apparatus demanding to snoop on other people’s data. We can leverage these aspects. New Zealand has a strong brand as clean and green, it also has a growing reputation for probity and values.

 

Southern Cross Next cableSouthern Cross says its recent seabed survey found a faster route for the Southern Cross Next cable project connecting Auckland and Sydney to Los Angeles.

The route means laying cable in waters off the Wallis and Fortuna Islands. This should pay off by cutting latency; that’s the time taken for data to travel across the Pacific. Southern Cross Cable Network CEO Anthony Briscoe says it will be the fastest connection between New Zealand, Australia and the US.

How does that claim stack up?

Light travels at around 300,000 kilometres per second in a vacuum. It slows to around 200,000 kmps in a fibre cable. That’s roughly 5 milliseconds to travel 1000km. The existing Southern Cross cable is 8000km from Auckland to Hawaii and another 4135 km from Hawaii to California. That’s about a 60ms one-way journey.

The abandoned Pacific-Fibre cable was to take a more direct route, around 10,500km from Auckland to the US. If we assume Southern Cross is planning a similar distance, then it would be around 1500km shorter or roughly 7ms closer.

Hawaiki Cable will run around 14,000km of fibre from Australia to the USA. The route between Australia and New Zealand is a fraction longer than Southern Cross’s trans-Tasman route. The line from Northland connects to the Australia-US cable near Norfolk Island, which, according to Google is almost 12,000km from the USA.

Southern Cross Next cable shaves milliseconds off trip

So it looks as if Brisco’s claim is right, the Southern Cross Next cable will be the fastest data route from New Zealand to the US.

Does this matter? It won’t affect most people, but it will be enough to make a difference for some specialist users and applications that deal in vast amounts of data.

Southern Cross says the Next cable will cost around US$350 million to build. It should be open for business by the end of 2019. The plan is for a 60Tbps link, which is three times the 20Tbps on the existing Southern Cross cable.

Like its rival, Hawaiki, the Southern Cross Next cable will drop off at several Pacific island nations. Fiji, Samoa, Tokelau and Kiribati are the most likely candidates. Southern Cross says it potentially has eight customers.

Spark owns 50 percent of Southern Cross, Singtel owns 40 percent and the remaining 10 percent belongs to Verizon.

cables-te-subcomHawaiki says it has completed the route survey for its 14,000km submarine cable connecting New Zealand and Australia to the US mainland via Pacific island nations and Hawaii. The job was done with Hawaiki partner TE SubCom.

Completing the survey puts Hawaiki on track to begin operating from the middle of 2018.

The company says submarine cable manufacturing is now well underway with more than 4,500 km of fibre ready to roll. It also has 25 completed repeaters and work has started on the branching units which will connect the network to American Samoa, New Caledonia, Fiji and Tonga.

Hawaiki schedule

TE SubCom vice-president Debra Brask confirmed the project schedule. She says: “Our partnership with Hawaiki’s operations team is very productive and system manufacturing is well on track. In addition, permits are secured in Australia and are well underway in other locations. We continue to be on schedule for a mid-2018 completion.”

When complete Hawaiki will give New Zealand a fourth international submarine cable connection. The Southern Cross Cable Network has a figure of eight design and has links to the east and to the west of New Zealand.

The Tasman Global Access cable makes three. It connects New Zealand to Australia and was due to go live about now but is delayed due to a damaged sea plough.

Meanwhile Southern Cross is talking up its Next cable which it describes as “a high capacity express route, providing datacentre connectivity between Sydney, Auckland, and Los Angeles”. It is due to complete in 2019 and will add a meshed network design so customers can spread their traffic across what will be all three Southern Cross cable routes.

hawaiki-ceremony-mangawhai-heads-2016

Remi Galasso’s dream to build the Hawaiki trans-Pacific cable became a reality earlier today.

Prime Minister John Key and Communications Minister Amy Adams joined other dignitaries to help Galasso get the project started at a soil turning ceremony hosted by local iwi at Bream Tail near Mangawhai Heads in Northland.

Speaking at the event Key says a whole bunch of New Zealanders don’t know this is happening. Yet, he says the cable: “Is far more important to the average New Zealander than they realise. We need more connectivity and that’s what Hawaiki is all about.”

No more single cable risk

Key said that for a long time New Zealand relied on a single cable network. He said it is an area where “you need to keep investing”. He told guests the Hawaiki cable would increase New Zealand’s telecommunications security and bring jobs and development to Northland.

Communications Minister Amy Adams expanded on that theme. She says there’s evidence that businesses cluster around cable landing points. Adams sees opportunities for data centres to set up in the Mangawhai Heads area.

When it starts operation in June 2018 the $500 million Hawaiki cable will be the second submarine cable linking New Zealand and Australia to Hawaii and the mainland United States.

Third submarine cable

By that time it will be New Zealand’s third submarine cable operator and the fourth international data link.

At present there is a single cable network connecting New Zealand to the rest of the world. The Southern Cross Cable Network has two strands, which means there’s a degree of redundancy. Yet relying on one company is a case of putting all our eggs in a single basket.

Early next year the Tasman Global Access cable will link New Zealand to the East Coast of Australia.

At this stage Hawaiki has a design capacity of 42 Tbps. This makes it the fattest pipe between Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Vital link

Submarine cables are rarely front-page news. Many think they are unglamorous, but as the Prime Minister underlined, they are vital to the nation’s economy.

Malcolm Dick, who last year sold his share of CallPlus joined Sir Eion Edgar earlier this year to invest in Hawaiki which boasts all-New Zealand equity funding.

At the launch event Dick says all the time he was running a telecommunication business he worried about having a single cable provider. He says he wondered what would happen if that failed.

Partners

As well as equity investors Galasso managed to find a some key partners to help get the project off the ground. These include REANNZ, Vodafone and Amazon Web Services.

Reannz, the Research and Education Advanced Network, is a crown-owned high-performance computer network that services the needs of researchers and academics. It was among the first customers to sign to Hawaiki and has a $65 million anchor tenancy contract.

Reannz chief executive Nicole Ferguson underlined the need for new capacity. While there is plenty of headroom for now, the demand for data is increasing at such a rate that the existing Pacific cable network could now reach its full capacity before the end of its commercial life. She says there is a need for a diversity of supply.

Amazon Web Services interest in Hawaiki is, in part, down to the rapid increase in its New Zealand cloud services business. AWS depends on international connectivity to connect customers to its data centres.

Hawaiki is not the first project aiming to add trans-Pacific submarine capacity. The Pacific Fibre project failed in 2012 because it could not raise enough money through financial institutions. It also ran into problems over US fears about its partnership with Huawei Marine.

trans-tasman cable getting close

Spark says the Tasman Global Access cable will be ready for service by the end of January 2017.

The 2,300km trans-Tasman cable linking New Zealand and Australia is a joint project between Spark NZ and Vodafone with a minority investment from Telstra.

When complete, the TGA will add capacity to the Southern Cross Cable Network which already links New Zealand to Australia and to the USA.

While there is plenty of headroom on the Southern Cross Cable, an extra link will give New Zealand a much-needed back-up. It reduces dependency on a single network operator and increases the number of international links from two to three.

TGA is also important because the internet centre of gravity is moving from the USA to Asia. The TGA will link New Zealand to Australia’s east coast and from there, traffic can connect to the five cables connecting Australia to Asia.

The TGA cable is made from two fibre pairs. It will have a total capacity of 20 terabits per second. This is about three times as much capacity as the Southern Cross provides at the moment, although it can match the TGA capacity with upgrades.