Wednesday, 17 February 2021 07:53

Defence dept to keep using Chinese-owned data centre till 2025 Featured

Defence dept to keep using Chinese-owned data centre till 2025 Pixabay

The Australian Department of Defence is continuing to use a Chinese-owned data centre, Global Switch, for hosting some of its data, even though it was told to switch providers by the end of last year.

The contract between Defence and Global Switch ended in October last year, but has been extended until September 2025, according to a new contract which was made available to Parliament on Tuesday, the Herald Sun reported.

The new contract is said to be worth $53.5 million, about a quarter of a million dollars more than the original quote. Global Switch is based in Ultimo, an inner-city suburb in Sydney.

In reply to a question from Bob Katter, an MP from Katter's Australian party, on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Defence had migrated its most sensitive data to a purpose-built data centre.

"Consistent with the whole-of-government hosting strategy, Defence data migrations of sensitive ICT data and assets was completed ahead of schedule and under budget prior to the expiration of the original Global Switch Ultimo lease in September 2020," he said.

"Defence is now progressing work consistent with the strategy to migrate less sensitive and unclassified data assets to an alternative data centre."

Morrison said he had been advised that Defence had full operation and control of what he referred to as "data holes". "Within the Ultimo data centre, Defence has in place strict security arrangements, including 24/7 Defence security presence, remote CCTV monitoring and regular security audits," he added.

The Federal Government has a whole-of-government hosting strategy which was announced in April 2019, before the last federal election.

There have been questions raised about Global Switch since 2016 when its parent company, Aldersgate Investments, sold a 49% stake to the Chinese firm, Elegant Jubilee.

Investors in Aldersgate are said to have been brought together by Li Qiang who owns Daily Tech, a leading data centre company in China. The main investor was the Jiangsu Sha Steel Group, China's largest private steel enterprise. Elegant Jubilee gained full ownership of Global Switch in August 2019.

Relations between Australia and China are at an all-time low at the moment.

Last year, Labor MP Ed Husic raised questions over the hosting of data collected by Australia's COVIDSafe app in the same data centre, by Amazon Web Services which was given the contract to store the data.

Update, 10am: In a statement, Global Switch spokesman Damon Reid said the company had signed a long-term renewal with the Department of Defence.

"Across the many international markets in which we operate, Global Switch partners with governments and leading organisations to house their mission critical IT infrastructure," he said. "All our data centres provide our customers with world class reliability, security and flexibility.

"Global Switch has no access to any customer data, we simply build and operate high-quality real estate with the right power, cooling and physical security so that our customers are able to focus on their core IT requirements.

"We believe multiple, highly credentialled data centre operators, including market leading international data centre operators, are needed to enhance competition and innovation as well as diversify risk in the Australian market."

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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