NSW kicks off data centre reform project

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NSW kicks off data centre reform project

The New South Wales Government has asked for expressions of interest from the private sector for the construction of two custom-built, green-flavoured data centres to consolidate the enterprise computing needs of some of its largest agencies.

The 'Data Centre Reform Project' is based on a 2008 review of the NSW Government's data centre needs which found some agencies - such as Health and the Department of Education and Training - were in desperate need of capacity.

The report estimated that as computing demands expanded, power usage within existing NSW Government facilities would exceed 5.8 MW by 2011.

The Government's expressions of interest document, available here, seeks interested parties in the design, construction, commissioning and financing and operations of two data centres connected in an 'active-active' configuration by 2011 - with NSW Health and the NSW Department of Education moving in as 'anchor tenants.'

The centres were expected to operate for approximately 20 years.

"The Project will comprise scalable, robust data centre capacity spread across two separate, fit-for-purpose installations to cater for upwards of initially 3 MW (approximately) of the NSW Government ICT load," the document said.

Free cooling on the agenda

As expected, the document seeks a facility that is highly resilient (rated Tier II or Tier III according to the definitions of the Uptime Institute), with multiple telecommunications and power connectivity, and capable of handling the latest high density computing equipment.

But more interestingly, the document also demands the facilities boast the latest cooling and power reduction techniques - and even prescribes a preference for facilities built in areas with low ambient air temperatures to achieve the power savings associated with free cooling.

Free cooling uses filtered cooler air sourced from outside the data centre to cool the hot systems operating within it.

The document suggests that regional centres such as the Hunter Valley (North of Sydney), Illawarra or Goulburn to the South or Bathurst, Orange and the Blue Mountains to the West as attractive locales for this type of cooling.

The Government said it would entertain proposals in which data centres are built on its own land or as "part of a larger campus."

And while there is a preference for "one or both data centres to be located in New South Wales," the Government would still consider proposals for data centres built elsewhere in Australia - which could prove particularly enticing for new data centres being built for the Federal Government in the ACT.

And again, while the State Government's preference is for a custom build, should the price be right it would consider the "existing data centres."

"The NSW Government does not require provision of data centre capacity on an exclusive use basis," the document said. "Respondents may submit proposals based on shared access with third parties, if this approach offers better value for money."

Either way, any winning bidder would need to provide access to third parties (such as Government agency staff or their outsourced technology providers) to manage the ICT equipment within the data centre.

Next steps

The NSW Government expects to use submissions to the EOI tender to put together a shortlist of providers for a more formal RFT (request for tender) process.

The selection process will be managed by NSW Procurement - a division of the NSW Department of Services, Technology and Administration (DSTA).

The Government will hold a project briefing in Sydney on November 4, close the EOI process on December 1, and if satisfied with submissions, kick off a formal RFT process in the first quarter of 2010 - with a view to construction beginning later in 2010 and being completed by 2011.

But the Government has left the door open "not to proceed with either the Project or the sourcing process" should it be unsatisfied with the options put before it.

The Government has already engaged with PricewaterhouseCoopers (financial advisor), Commtech Asia (Technical advisor), Gilbert & Tobin (legal advisor) and WalterTurnbull (Probity advisor) on the project. Further, it has commissioned EMF Griffiths/CS Technology as advisors on sustainability issues.

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