Clouds Gather in the West as Data Demand Heats Up

PerthBy Christmas 2012, the cloud in Australia will reach a new point of maturity as major player Fujitsu completes a major upgrade of its suburban Perth data centre, which will offer second-generation cloud services to it corporate and government clients.

Fujitsu Australia CEO Mike Foster touts the advantages of expanding the existing data centre at Malaga, around 15km from the Perth CBD. “Our data centres in Sydney are 12km apart,” Foster says, “but some customers are saying they want them 500km apart but still need their data onshore.” Foster says the original plan to ‘long-line it from Sydney’ a year ago changed when customers in WA said they wanted a more solid local presence.

“Here in the West a lot of clients said they wanted capability,” Foster adds. “People were concerned about latency and communications cost to have data on the east coast. Closer is quicker.”

Many of Fujitsu’s government and corporate clients also need to house data on Australian soil because of regulatory compliance, and the company points out that if the unthinkable happens on either coast, business continuity is assured with such far-flung disaster recovery or backups.

The Fujitsu upgrade is the pointy end of a lot of cloud activity in the West. Cloud provider Zettagrid’s general Manager Nicki Pereira agrees the scene in Perth and WA is burgeoning. “We see more competition every month. Most of the larger data centre providers are looking to partner and outsource their cloud offering. However there are at least a dozen (probably more) smaller providers in Perth building up their own cloud.”

Pereira says one of the reasons besides the reduced cost of sending data long distance and latency issues is simply because the state is booming. “The market is very buoyant because of the resources boom. It’s not necessarily the major players like BHP, Rio Tinto, Fortescue and Woodside buying cloud but the industries servicing these players.”

Foster at Fujitsu agrees. “When [resources companies] hit a strike, they need to really move,” he says. He explains how one customer’s cloud presence was set up in just half a day and another, who provisioned their cloud in advance of ordering their own infrastructure, have found it so satisfactory they’ve never come off it.

The scalability and ‘pay as you go’ nature of many private cloud services together with the immediate presence of a Perth-based site mean WA companies are getting better services all the time. “A key to our early and ongoing success has been the automation of instant provisioning and instant customer fulfilment,” Pereira says.

But the expansion of cloud computing in the west is a welcome development to users too. Melbourne-based network consultant Tim Fletcher has two major clients in Perth up to the ‘hundred or so users’, one of whom he’s recently moved to Zettagrid’s cloud services to address latency issues.

“It’s come to a head a few times recently,” Fletcher says. “A client recently distributed a cloud based control system hosted by Rackspace. The software company deployed it and because Rackspace doesn’t have any infrastructure in Australia latency was terrible and it nearly killed the whole project.”

Fletcher thinks the cloud market in Perth now offers a viable to service WA companies. Asked if he’d recommend a WA cloud provider if approached by a WA client, he says ‘definitely’. “Latency is an issue for 50 or 60 percent of my clients,” he says. My other major client in Perth is hosted in Melbourne and they get latency of about 68 milliseconds. The one who hosts with a cloud provider in Perth gets 8ms.”