Mike Jenkins, co-founder and CEO of The Instillery, was quick to welcome news today that Microsoft was aiming to establish a new cloud region in New Zealand, highlighting three major benefits.
1. Māori data sovereignty
"As an Māori owned business, we believe that today’s announcement also unlocks a whole new world of potential for driving better Māori outcomes; combining data with leading global technology," Jenkins said.
Māori data sovereignty had long been a point of concern when it comes to hosting, processing and analysing data overseas where there is no Māori representation or control over how culturally important information is accessed or used.
With local infrastructure, Jenkins said he believed that the perception of this will change and Māori will benefit as a result.
"Being able to take massive amounts of data and augment that with leading global technology (combining hyperscale with world class security and privacy) enables us to make data driven, informed decisions to support Māori aspirations."
One client, Te Whānau-ā-Apanui CEO Rikirangi Gage, said "data was knowledge".
“Knowledge is about making decisions with evidence and insight," he said. "Māori data sovereignty is about taking ownership of that knowledge, and making decisions with our people, for our people.
"With respect to this, it's also about a self determination and the rights of passage wrestled from others to ensure the future wellbeing of our people are in our hands - for all time.”
Jenkins said the investment also further signals technology as a viable career path for young Māori; many of whom currently see primary industries as their only option but have much to offer the tech sector.
2. Sustainability and tech safe haven
Datacentres that power cloud are increasingly large consumers of power, however, companies like Microsoft have taken leadership positions on reducing environmental impacts, with Microsoft targeting their operation becoming carbon negative by 2030.
"Hyperscale cloud providers have a unique opportunity to solve this problem," Jenkins said. "It often isn’t economic to solve these problems on a small scale and invest in systems that are incredibly power efficient."
New Zealand offers a unique proposition for global tech companies, with 100 per cent renewable energy readily available.
Conversely, large portions of Australia’s energy is generated from fossil fuels.
"We’ve long talked about the opportunity for New Zealand to become a tech safe haven or bolt hole for people who will invest in our economy, creating jobs and contributing to our story of innovation," Jenkins said.
"This takes it a step further. What if we can become a safe haven for data and compute power as well?"
The release of Microsoft Azure would bring services that were simply not available from local datacentre companies, he said.
"Attracting this sort of investment on our shores is a major win for Aotearoa. We have fibre and international connections to rival anywhere in the world, and now we have the cloud platform.
"The barriers to building a global hi-tech business from NZ, really have dissolved overnight."
3. Impact on the NZ tech industry
One of the most obvious benefits of having a locally public cloud provider was lower latency, which brings edge computing applications closer to reality for New Zealand.
Edge computing enabled the creation of real-time applications that require ultra low latency processing such as video processing and analytics, self-driving cars and advanced robotics, Jenkins said.
"As we see the emergence of 5G and the raft of new services this will enable, we will increasingly see the tight link with the ability to process data rapidly at edge computing locations.
"The applications we could expect are anything from augmented reality to IoT based agriculture services -- both of these already have kiwi companies building solutions for."
Where local providers have offered what Jenkins referred to as "fairly rudimentary" cloud services in the past, Microsoft Azure would bring all the latest technologies to our doorstep, such as Microsoft’s AI and Machine Learning capabilities.
"Having a local Microsoft Azure presence also enables businesses such as TSB to overcome regulatory hurdles with processing banking data offshore.
“TSB already works with The Instillery and multiple public cloud providers," said Hamish Archer - general manager of technology at TSB.
"We leverage their unique strengths and capabilities to augment our on premise IT infrastructure. Without any significant public cloud infrastructure on this side of the Tasman there have been many architectural and legislative challenges that have prevented New Zealand Banks from fully embracing the vision of cloud computing.
"I am very excited by the prospect of a New Zealand region being added to the Microsoft Azure Cloud. To have the full power of these platforms within a few milliseconds of our existing data centres is a game changer.
"This totally rewrites the rulebook for us, we will be forced to rethink and revise our technology roadmap as a result of this announcement.”
While the cost of international bandwidth has dropped significantly, a local Microsoft Azure presence also decreases costs for those customers shifting massive amounts of critical data across dedicated transit.
"With today’s announcement, NZ becomes the country with the second lowest population in the world to host an Azure region," Jenkins said.
"This is a step forward for NZ as a place for innovation, our tech sector and our economy in a post-COVID-19 world."