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University of Otago to be anchor tenant for new Datagrid facility

By Jessie Chiang
Fri 3 Jun 2022

The University of Otago is set to become an anchor tenant for what will be the country's first fully carbon-neutral hyperscale data centre.

The Datagrid facility for storing and processing data will serve both the public and business sectors with a capacity of up to 150MW. It will be built on 43 hectares in Makarewa, Southland, near Invercargill in the South Island of New Zealand.

Datagrid chief executive officer Remi Galasso says the Manapouri hydro power scheme will power the data centre and Southland's relatively cool annual average temperature of 9.8 degrees should make the data centre at least 15% more power-efficient.

He says the new facility will comprise up to 10 modules, each spanning 6,500 square metres. Each module will have a self-contained package of racks (servers, hard disk drives, and other computing equipment), air conditioning, power management, security, monitoring, and fire protection.

Galasso says modular datacentres can be quickly built by creating infrastructure on-site as the modules are being produced off-site. He says builders can also stage construction to meet demand with minimal disruption. The initial build will involve one module costing more than $100 million and is expected to be completed by 2024.

"Datagrid will be able to support all government, hyperscale and enterprise customers within the same datacentre, and provide them with future-proof, scalable hosting solutions as well as colocation services," he says.

University of Otago chief operating officer Stephen Willis says this new partnership means Datagrid will develop a future-proof, customised, easily scalable hosting solution. He says this aims to ensure the university is equipped to manage the exploding volumes of data anticipated as rising numbers of large-scale scientific projects come on stream.

The university's head of IT infrastructure Wallace Chase says using the new data centre means the tertiary provider will no longer need to invest in replacing its aging data centre. Instead, it allows the university to scale up or down quickly according to research, teaching, learning and operational needs.

Datagrid says the Hawaiki Nui cable will provide subsea connectivity and enable customers to connect to the data centre cost-effectively. 

Auckland-based subsea cable company Hawaiki, which shares the same parent as Datagrid BW Digital, announced last year the construction of the 22,000km Hawaiki Nui cable that will connect Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill while also linking them via Sydney to Los Angeles, Hawaii, Singapore and Jakarta.

"Our partnership with the University of Otago also allows it to consider becoming a landing station for Hawaiki Nui, which would create a new internet gateway in Dunedin upon its scheduled completion in 2025," says Galasso.

Datagrid and Hawaiki Nui cable are projected to cost more than NZD one billion, building on the 15,000 km Hawaiki Transpacific Cable which came into service in 2018, connecting the North Island to Australia, the Pacific and the west coast of the US.

BW Digital is also the strategic partner of the Chilean government's Desarrollo Pais infrastructure fund to develop the Humboldt Cable System, which will connect Valparaiso, Chile, to Sydney, Australia.

Humboldt will include several branches for the connection of Chilean island territories, Invercargill, and Antarctica. Datagrid says the almost 2,000-kilometre branch from Humboldt trunk cable to Antarctica will provide the first ultrafast broadband connection to the scientific community at Scott Base - which hosts researchers from the University of Otago and other institutions - replacing their existing, less reliable satellite communications.

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