Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) plans for a group of at least three data centres in Auckland is great news for New Zealand Inc.

AWS announced its plans in a press release on September 22, estimating that the new AWS Asia Pacific (Auckland) Region would create 1,000 new jobs in New Zealand over the next 15 years with the investment of a whopping NZ$7.5 billion.

It is unclear how 1,000 jobs will be created, as data centres usually employ a handful of people. It’s also uncertain quite why the data centres will cost as much as they will, ten or more times what could be expected, so I will be very interested to hear more detail from AWS as the project ramps up.

BIG DATA: Amazon Web Services New Zealand country manager public sector Tim Dacombe-Bird.
BIG DATA: Amazon Web Services New Zealand country manager public sector Tim Dacombe-Bird.

There’s been some debate in the media about whether the Waikato would be better placed to host AWS’s new infrastructure.

I have long said Waikato is the best region for data centres geographically. The region is more geographically stable than the Auckland Volcanic Field.

But in this case, it depends what AWS’ number one priority is. If that is finding 1,000 people, Auckland is better than the Waikato with a 1.5 million population to draw from compared to half a million.

The 1,000 jobs also suggest there’s more than just the data centres in the mix – with a data centre only requiring a small number of people to operate and maintain it. If those 1,000 jobs are tech-related, they could easily be filled by University of Waikato computer science graduates alone. The university’s prolific output of world-leading computer science graduates means that Waikato has a higher population of people with the right skills.

Fittingly, the University of Waikato was the first place in New Zealand to connect to the internet in 1989.

It could be that they're testing the waters in Auckland, and they have plans to roll out more in the rest of New Zealand. Perhaps the next AWS data centre will be bult near one of our Waikato hydro dams, taking advantage of renewable energy.

Regardless of where they build, Waikato is likely to benefit from the development, with the region part of the golden triangle of Auckland, Hamilton, and Tauranga.

Geography aside, AWS’s announcement means New Zealand companies can choose to host data in New Zealand data centres rather than overseas. Being on shore rather than overseas means that for domenstic traffic the latency, the time taken to transmit data between a source and destination, will be significantly reduced.

It’s about user experience. When you want to use something, it will load sooner. If you’re using virtual reality the response times will be faster. It can reduce lag and jitter in domestically hosted video conferencing solutions.

When big tech comes to these shores in the form of data centres the whole of New Zealand can benefit.

We’ve been quite well served with other data centre providers. Datacom even has the Kapua (meaning ‘cloud’ in Māori) data centre in Te Rapa up the road from Company-X in Hamilton. So, we certainly haven’t been underserviced when it comes to data centres.

But Amazon does lead the world in terms of scalability and provides many tools and industry-leading technologies as part of their eco-system.

Microsoft also has plans for enterprise-grade cloud services in Auckland and has a lot of those types of technologies in Azure as well, so we too, will be able to use these closer to us in New Zealand.

  • David Hallett is a co-founder and director of Hamilton software specialist Company-X.