We were quite close to seeing a major renovation to the former NSW Government Printing Office — now partly owned and operated by Global Switch. While the building has been partly refurbished, a major addition was going to be made to it. See this graphic visualisation (borrowed from The Australian) - it shows you the existing data centre (at the back) and the new building, which would be known as “Sydney 2”.
The Global Switch data centre is a big high tech digi-storage centre that holds server space (and god knows what else) for a number of large multinationals, the ATO, the NBN Company and Defence. They have their own generators. They’re allegedly bomb proof, fuck-up proof, a high security hulking box.
Right now the back of the Global Switch building has an empty lot (which Penultimo and others have mused about the potential uses for).We assumed that the main reason why this land was not being developed was because of security concerns.
Well, Global Switch was musing about potential uses for this site too, and in 2010 the they hatched a plan to expand their current facility by a huge amount - so much so that they would have close to 50,000 square metres of data centre space in Ultimo. This plan received Part 3A major projects approval from the former state government of NSW before the election.
Global Switch intended to begin construction in 2011 and finish by the end of 2012. There was much green flag waving and “talkin about trigeneration…”, and according to The Australian’s Fran Foo, “The new site will use a combination of energy sources, including natural gas, and collect, treat and re-use waste water on-site.” Global Switch claimed: “The data centre will be one of only a handful of buildings in the world to target a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum rating which measures a building’s environmental efficiency.” (Source)
The proposal certainly had the enthusiastic support of the former state Laborgovernment, with the former Premier Kristina Keneally quoted as saying: “Along with our rapidly growing information economy, demand for data centre space in Sydney is growing … This project will generate millions of dollars of new investment, increase data centre infrastructure capability, and reinforce Sydney’s role as a global financial and IT hub.” (Source: The Australian) This word, “hub” - it always gets people excited, doesn’t it? But one of the key questions is - in these days of floating digital information and alleged terrorist threat - do we want one centralised data hub, or lots of little hubs, scattered around the country?
Now, the next bit is a little tricky. Global Switch is still promoting the new development on their website, claiming “construction to begin in 2011” (see their press release here), but the new Liberal government in NSW is not necessarily on board with this proposal. Meanwhile, although Global Switch is still promoting their development online, on April 4 it was reported that they pulled out of the tender process. Again, Fran Foo reports: “Sources said Global Switch did not comply with the mandatory location requirement, as it only had facilities in the Sydney inner-city suburb of Ultimo.”
While the change of government has put the proposal in doubt, the Federal Government’s naming of five companies to sit on a “data centre panel” has also changed the game for data storage and “cloud” data management (we’re talkin out of our arse with this terminology, bear with us). Now - Global Switch is on that data centre panel, but how this will impact their proposed development of the Ultimo site is yet to be seen. We suspect they will want to develop the site, but it probably won’t happen as quickly as they had first intended, and they may well have to apply all over again. Again, from Fran Foo at The Australian: “As no contracts have yet been exchanged in NSW [for data centre building], it remains to be seen if new premier Barry O’Farrell will stop the process altogether.”
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