‘Hands-on’ data centre on the way

    T4 Group directors Jason Porter (left) and David Simpson believe Southland has the potential to be the future of the data centre industry in New Zealand. Photo: Supplied

    A TECHNOLOGY businessman says he wants to bring the data centre revolution to Southland.

    For the past 18 months, T4 Group directors Jason Porter and David Simpson have been working to build a $50 million carbon-free data centre in Southland.

    But Mr Porter said the project was not more of the same – they wanted to create something innovative which would enhance the resilience of the community.

    “Why stick to something that someone else is doing? We want to do our own thing – if the big boys want to continue to use the same technology and do the same thing, that is fine; however, we are here to take a step further.

    “Southland has the right environment to create something completely unique that has never been done in this country.”

    By the end of the year, the group will start to build New Zealand’s first Tier 4 data centre, which would run off two power supplies, ensuring there is 100% effective uptime – meaning it should never go down.

    It is the second data centre announced for the region as Datagrid was also building a plant in Makarewa.

    However, Mr Porter said there was enough space for everyone and they were even having conversations with Datagrid to enhance the operation of both centres in the region.

    However, Mr Porter said the first Tier 4 data centre would be the only one in the country that was “really carbon neutral” as it would offset carbon emissions as well as use the waste heat generated by the data centre to heat a Southland commercial building, which could not yet be revealed.

    “That is very exciting because it will reduce the coal consumption from a prominent Southland commercial building. Our vision is to replace as much as we can, the coal power that is currently used in Southland.”

    Instead of building a “mammoth” data centre as other companies were investing in, the modular construction of the hub would also help to “improve hugely” the internet quality in the South Island and made the data even more secure as it would “spread” the risk through data centres in Auckland, Northland and Southland, he said.

    “Why put it all in one area? It is not logical for me. We are not sticking all our efforts in Auckland as the majority of the companies are. Don’t get me wrong, Auckland is a great place and needs a data centre there, but Southland is where the future will happen.”

    Mr Porter believed companies were building huge sites using old technology.

    “And I don’t get it. Why not look into doing something more functional so we can take advantage of the changes of technology? Especially for the environment. There is constant new technology in this industry and that way we can adapt easily to enhance their operations, while benefiting from the climate from the region.

    “Why burn coal when we can use what is called free air to cool things down? Those kinds of things we can do.”

    He said those questions prompted him and Mr Simpson to create something which he believed was tailored to the region and the country’s needs.

    But Mr Porter said the initiative was not only beneficial for the industry itself but for the future of the Southland community as the group wants to create a kind of “data campus” in the region.

    Mr Porter’s idea was to work with The Southern Institute of Technology to potentially create a “hands-on” programme in an aim to attract more people to the region as well to create opportunities for younger generations.

    His idea was for students to learn about this growing industry in a three-year course while putting their knowledge into action at the data centre.

    “We want to involve the young generation to actually bring that sort of education into the region.

    “Nobody is doing a data centre-focused education and Southland has the perfect environment to create a data centre that is very energy efficient but also unique, that will add value to the community.”

    He believed this would be a game changer for the region which has been suffering with the loss of a qualified workforce.

    “Southland has so much potential and this is a real opportunity to shine.”