Hogg's head sought for data vault

Gordon Hogg, the former Databank head and originator of a plan 15 years ago to turn New Zealand into a data fortress, has been invited to front a modern reworking of the same scheme.

Gordon Hogg, the former Databank head and originator of a plan 15 years ago to turn New Zealand into a data fortress, has been invited to front a modern reworking of the same scheme.

Hogg last week met organisers of a trust trying to get a chain of secure data vaults off the ground. Headed by Auckland IT consultant Gary Connolly, the group has been working since last year’s Knowledge Wave conference to turn the idea into reality. It’s at a stage of having two pilot sites — on Auckland’s North Shore and in Southland — ready to go live, but is waiting for an infusion of foreign funding.

Hogg’s 1987 scheme foundered at the same point: he was seeking government backing to the tune of about $100 million to create a “repository of knowledge” that would store critical data from around the world. While his plan won some political support, he couldn’t persuade the government to finance it.

Connolly’s group, a trust which calls itself Secure Data Vault New Zealand (SDVNZ), says a “recognised venture funder” has committed $5 million to the scheme. But it’s looking for a further $6 million overseas before it activates the pilot sites.

Hogg said after last week’s meeting that he “didn’t have a full picture” of the plan and he was awaiting further information before deciding to become involved.

“I’d like to see how they plan to make it work,” says Hogg, adding that the $6 million sought “was a lot of money to invest in a group you don’t really know”.

The trust’s plan is to build five linked facilities that will provide data redundancy and encryption. Connolly maintains they will be more than data centres.

“The proof-of-concept is based around the security and vault nature of the storage,” Connolly says.

As the plans have become publicly known, Connolly says other people have claimed to be offering similar services.

“But if you take a look at what they’re doing, they’re not as secure.” He says the only similar venture he’s come across is in Switzerland.

Connolly says online voting company Election.com, which was started in the US but has Australian and New Zealand offices, has expressed interest in using the vaults, the approach coming from Australia. But Sydney-based managing director Frank Nesci says the company is looking for a hosting service, not a storage facility.

Connolly says other potential customers are “battering our door down” and four say “tell us when it’s ready”.

The trust is secretive about the North Shore pilot facility, which is also home to a web and intranet hosting service. Connolly says the building has telecomms connections from every available provider, including newcomer UnitedNetworks. The Southland site is owned by ISP SouthNet, whose managing director, Marc Cohen, is one of SDVNZ’s trustees.

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