Vaults dogged by delays

New Zealand's planned network of secure data vaults may be running behind schedule, but prime mover Gary Connolly plans to extend the network to include disaster recovery services.

New Zealand’s planned network of secure data vaults may be running behind schedule, but prime mover Gary Connolly plans to extend the network to include disaster recovery services.

Secure Data Vault New Zealand has suffered funding setbacks which have delayed the opening of the facilities, but Connolly says he is “happy that we have got things rolling”.

The vaults plan was first raised following the “Knowledge Wave” conference last year. It attracted 45 backers, including companies like FoundryNet, EMC, Hitachi and Auckland UniServices, and claims 11 customers.

Demand was initially fuelled by a desire for safe data havens, intensified by the post-September 11 security climate. Earlier this year Connolly said a first centre would be opening in Invercargill in February or March, with another in Auckland soon after and a network of five sites being completed later this year.

But Connolly says a promised $5 million of funding from one backer fell through, leaving SVDNZ to look elsewhere for cash. Connolly says money is available, but the opening of the Invercargill site now depends on the success of the first pilot scheme in Auckland.

Connolly says the local financiers are letting him divulge less than before, and will only say that the concept site is “north of the Bombays”. Computerworld has, however, seen the site, which is on Auckland’s North Shore and shared with an application services provider.

Connolly, a former Clear Communications internet services manager, says he expects the first site will pay its way in four to five months, helping to recoup the $330,000 the trust has invested so far, including $70,000 of Connolly’s own money.

“It hasn’t failed. Okay, we are 10 months down the track. I would like to have gone faster but I am happy that we have got things rolling. I have had to give up control, but that’s fine because it’s being controlled by people with big business sense,” he says.

In May Gordon Hogg, a former head of Databank (now part of EDS) and originator of a $100 million data fortress plan in the late 80s, got behind the data vault scheme.

The plan remains to have five data vaults across New Zealand, followed by disaster recovery services.

“There would be cache servers placed outside New Zealand in strategic places that will do disaster recovery,” Connolly says. “That’s a longer term investment.

“We could be talking 18 months, two years. I have been talking to clients and there is a lot of interest overseas. People have flown to New Zealand. A lot have asked for the ability of roll-back. If you have a computer system doing transactions on a minute-by-minute basis, you can roll back, hopefully to three minutes before the time the bomb or whatever went off,” he says.

Connolly says the plan would involve placing servers in a safe environment outside the worldwide web and keeping a constant relay backup of a computer system.

“We will need big dollars. Three different opinions say upwards of $12 million to get cache servers, multiple centres doing multiple disaster recovery work.”

The proposal comes as Singapore plans to replace disappearing manufacturing jobs with its own vaults. Its government is targeting Indian firms to set up such centres in the city state. IBM has three DR centres on the island and analyst IDC estimates the region’s “safe haven” reputation could create a $US1.3 billion market by 2006, double that of 2001.

However, Connolly does not see Singapore as a threat to SVDNZ, as Singapore is more likely to be a “partner” in projects. Asian organisations do not have a “service mentality”.

Marc Cohen, managing director of ISP SouthNet, says his organisation has yet to become involved in an earlier mooted second vault in Invercargill. He says he hasn’t heard from Connolly for three months but would love to bring a vault to Southland.

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