Westfield resists push to offshore data to US

Shopping mall owner's CIO reveals a downside of cloud computing

Westfield CIO Peter Bourke says he is fighting the push by software giants to offshore his company’s data to the US.

“One of the big issues is we’re continually bombarded by the major application software houses – Oracle, SAP, Microsoft [and others],” he claims. “They want us to take things to the cloud, but they want us to keep things in Houston or Phoenix,” he says. “And we say: firstly we don’t like the Patriot Act,” which allows US authorities access to data on US soil, and secondly, he says, availability and capacity of international lines is not always sufficient for a reliable service.

Bourke, who is CIO for shopping mall owner Westfield’s Australian and New Zealand operations, was speaking during a panel discussion at the recent Cisco Live conference held in Melbourne. He mentioned Houston and Phoenix as hypothetical sites for cloud datacentres.

Cloud computing was a much-discussed topic throughout the conference and the CIO panel – which comprised Bourke, Australia Post CIO Wayne Saunders and Ric Lamb of entertainment giant Crown — were asked for their perception of the trend.

Bourke says that five years ago, when he first took up the role at Westfield, the datacentre was in the same building. While it was comforting to know where the data was, it was always concerning from a disaster recovery perspective.

“When I first joined Westfield, I asked is ‘where is the datacentre?’ and the answer was: ‘through that door’, says Bourke. “I was worried because we had an old building. We’ve gone to the cloud in a sense by going to outsourced datacentres;

I think that’s the first stage.”

As cloud awareness progresses it threatens loss of control, Bourke believes. “It is very easy for a salesman to [tell a manager or staffer] you can take an application to the cloud and you don’t need to talk to those IT guys. But as Wayne [Saunders] said, ultimately every system must talk to other systems in your organisation.”

The ICT operation must remain responsible for providing that “glue”, he says.

Infiltration of software-as-a-service offerings is a challenge to the CIO’s skill at remaining engaged with all parts of the business, Lamb agrees. However, his company Crown is constrained when it comes to the deeper cloud implications of platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service.

Being a casino operator it is strongly regulated and is not allowed to shift data outside the state of Victoria.

As a shopping mall operator, Westfield is fundamentally a property company, Bourke says.

One of the greatest changes affecting property management is the rise of the “internet of things,” he says.

Bell attended Cisco Live as a guest of Cisco

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