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Australian Dept Defence pulling kit out of China-owned Global Switch

Cites security concerns as justification for AU$200m migration

Paranoia will set the Australian government back AU$200 million between now and 2020, with the country's defence department deciding Chinese part-ownership of data hotel Global Switch represents a security risk.

Global Switch is one of many companies with a place on the Federal government's data centre panel, and has operated data centre real estate in Sydney since the late 1990s when it took over the building that used to house the NSW Government Printer's Office and refitted it to rent out data centre space.

Since then, it's constructed a second unit in Ultimo for a total of 73,000 square metres, and expects further space to come online in the third quarter of this year.

In December 2016 Global Switch's owner owner, Aldersgate Investments, sold 49 percent of the company to a Chinese consortium, and that's given the government the shivers, according to this report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The ABC reckons the decision is a signal that defence doesn't want to “outsource sensitive data”, something that mystified Global Switch's Asia-Pacific group director Damon Reid.

Reid told the ABC Global Switch never touches data: “We don't provide IT services to customers, nor do we have access to customer data,” he said in a statement to the broadcaster.

The waters were further muddied in a separate interview treasurer Scott Morrison gave to the ABC, in which he supported the department's decision but said the Sydney data centre was carved out of the Chinese deal.

“That data centre in Australia is not in Chinese ownership. Its ownership hasn't changed. It actually remains in the hands in which it was held when defence first put their data in that data centre”, Morrison said.

“[Defence has] made a decision to get their data out of that data centre, and that's an entirely appropriate decision, and they'll get that done … by 2020. So I think there's been some conflation of those issues, but the government has acted at all times to ensure the integrity of our foreign investment process, when it came to that data centre”.

The Register has asked Global Switch to confirm whether or not such a “carve-out” is in place. ®

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