Infrastructure: Amazon Web Services data cloud centres come with golden lining

Tiffany Bloomquist says New Zealand is an ideal location for AWS because of New Zealand’s heavy investment in renewable energy. photo / courtesy

Amazon Web Services plans to invest $7.5 billion in building cloud computing data centers in New Zealand over the next 15 years.

This investment will create a local AWS Region that is scheduled to open for business in 2024. This means that customers who need to store data locally can run the same operations available to AWS customers elsewhere.

Tiffany Bloomquist, AWS New Zealand country manager for commerce, said the massive technology infrastructure investment will create 1,000 jobs and contribute $10.8 billion to the region’s GDP over the period.

The New Zealand AWS Region will be one of 25 regions in which the company operates globally. At the time of writing, there are 81 Availability Zones.

“An AWS Region is a physical location that clusters multiple data centers,” Bloomquist explains.

“We call each group of these data centers an Availability Zone, and each region contains at least three isolated and physically separated Availability Zones. They will be deployed around Auckland.

“Each Availability Zone has its own independent power and cooling capabilities. Zones are connected by redundant, ultra-low latency (the time it takes for data to travel between locations and back) networks. We have the highest level of physical security, regulatory compliance and data protection.”

There are four considerations AWS considers when designing Availability Zones:

Top of the list is the environment. The company says it puts a lot of effort into investing in sustainable locations. Bloomquist says that means thinking about environmental threats like floods, extreme weather and, in New Zealand’s case, earthquakes.

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Another factor is how the data center is powered. AWS’ goal for its Auckland data center is to use 100% renewable energy. “New Zealand has made significant investments in frontlines that provide us with an ideal location,” says Bloomquist.

The second major consideration is physical security. Depending on your location, this could mean making sure you have the right number of guards and the right kind of fencing, video cameras, and intruder detection. “Physical security is absolutely our responsibility and something we take very seriously.

A third consideration for AWS is the actual physical infrastructure, such as buildings, equipment inside, and ancillary equipment that keep them running. This includes cooling (data centers can generate a lot of heat) and fire protection systems.

The fourth consideration concerns data. This is where AWS must share responsibility with its customers.

Restrict access, maintain clear segregation, and use threat detection and security tools to keep your side of the deal. But that responsibility can only go so far.

Bloomquist says that when a company builds a business case before making a significant investment, it works backwards from what its customers need. Our main focus is understanding what the key user cases are. Then we can look at the investments we need to make to address customer needs.”

Low latency is a key requirement for AWS New Zealand customers, primarily based in Auckland.

AWS already has customers in New Zealand using data centers in Sydney, Singapore, or even the US. It takes time for data to travel to that location and back again.

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This is not essential for all applications, but there are tasks where low latency is essential. Keeping everything in Auckland makes waiting times very low.

Another requirement of New Zealand customers is data sovereignty, which is required when rules or regulations require data to be kept in the country.

AWS has been around for 20 years, and New Zealand companies have been using the cloud for all that time.

So why are companies investing here and now?

Bloomquist says the Covid pandemic has accelerated companies thinking about how to scale their businesses and better manage their costs. They are struggling with rising inflation and lack of talent or cost. All of these pressures combine to push businesses to use more cloud computing. She said domestic cloud spending is expected to rise by 22% this year.

Businesses in New Zealand have been using cloud computing for as long as their counterparts abroad, but have been slower than in other countries to adopt the advanced services offered by cloud technology.

Bloomquist said: This is where the cloud really differentiates itself. That’s why what we’ve done with Spark is so exciting.”

Earlier this year, Spark worked with AWS on two proof-of-concept projects for standalone 5G. Mobile phone networks have been upgraded to 5G technology, but carriers have yet to see the full benefits of the upgrade, as many of the background systems run on older systems and rely on 4G infrastructure. AWS has shown where technology can go with Spark, Mavenir, and Nokia.

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Bloomquist sees the potential of virtual and augmented reality alongside real-time video analytics.

“We wanted to reduce latency. Spark said it reduced latency by up to 70% in some cases.”

Another possibility offered by the cloud is for manufacturers to build digital twins of their entire manufacturing lines.

“You can see all the physical systems represented as virtual and customers can go in and troubleshoot without touching anything.”

You need a pipeline of skilled talent to launch high-end projects.

Bloomquist and AWS are developing the Hāpori Wāhine Program, a four-week, community-based program for Kiwi women seeking in-demand cloud technology careers. The program includes a network of experts to help participants launch their careers in technology. Hāpori Wāhine in particular aims to reach women who may not have previously considered working in tech.

Another program at AWS is cyber technology Aotearoa. This program provides middle school and high school students with the skills they need to stay safe online, and in some cases, inspires students to pursue careers in cybersecurity.

The AWS re/Start program aims to prepare unemployed or underemployed people for careers in cloud computing. A full-time, 12-week course that, upon completion, matches students with potential employers.

AWS in New Zealand

  • A $7.5 billion investment from AWS.
  • 1000 jobs will be created.
  • $10.8 billion is added to regional GDP.
  • 100% renewable energy goal.
  • Local cloud spending is expected to grow by 22% this year.
  • The 12-week AWS re/Start program prepares the unemployed or underemployed for a career in cloud computing.
  • Amazon Web Services is the advertising sponsor of the Herald’s Infrastructure report.

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