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Data centers as policy instruments

Stefan Hammond (Computerworld HK) | May 18, 2011
Hong Kong has a unique business structure. No other place has such a mix of public and private sector initiatives—government working with private interests to supply services to the public.

Stephen Mak from the OGCIO was the prime audience member, and gave a quick overview of government efforts. "We are working on all the actions we promised in the [March] Digital 21 paper. High-value data centers are in the pipeline in line with the Twelfth Five-Year Plan plan. The demand for consumption is local, regional, and international."

"Behind data centers is a whole IT ecosystem, and behind that, e-commerce," said Mak. "Privacy laws are under discussion currently, along with an electronic transactions ordinance that supports PKI. We recently decided to move our infrastructure to the cloud, and much will be moved to the public cloud, contributing to demand. E-procurement has already been launched for some government departments."

Mak acknowledged that Hong Kong's unique character precludes the unilateral action that characterizes the Lion City (privacy considerations are a prime differentiator): "Singapore is known for its coherent, cogent image in this space, primarily due to its IDA," he said. "The Hong Kong government cannot replicate that, but we can help."

Does physical location matter?

Herman Lam from Cyberport noted that firms are now moving to a cloud model. "Do you see a relationship with physical location?," asked Lam, "It seems salesforce has a stronger presence in Singapore."

McWhirter said that while his firm has a head office in Singapore, but "as long as security and availability is OK, who cares where the data center's located?"

The SVP said that "in a sense, we're building an ecosystem. As companies go forward, they define themselves by the tech they use, it's a differentiator for the industry. Kids today know nothing but the Internet, consumers are going to demand everything over the Net-as for data location, who cares?"

Samson Tam noted that the locale of a firm's headquarters makes it more likely to locate its data centers there. "Should we then target headquarter-locations?", he asked. "The firm would then be taxed in the same locale," another potential edge for Hong Kong given our low tax rates.

Leung from EMC said that locating IT staff close to business staff creates synergy. He noted that Hong Kong is building a "huge" data center in Tseung Kwan O, which could help Hong Kong-based firms create more value to customer by helping "transform data centers to the human factor."

Misunderstanding government policy

Cheng from HSBC addressed a concern this journalist has heard from data center-providers: MNCs not understanding the SAR/one country-two systems policy regarding Hong Kong and China. "We are independent of China," said Cheng, referring to data security.

Cheng added that HSBC decided to build a second data center in Hong Kong. "It took us 18 months and HK$800 million. As far as location, if you're happy with the service, you won't ask where the data center is-if not, then it becomes an issue. Investment in data centers attracts ecosystems."


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