For many, the cloud is an obscure, heavenly place to send files when they’re running out of storage space on their phone or laptop.
But all of that information goes to one physical location — a data center where thousands of servers work around the clock to store and manage content.
As Australians increasingly rely on the cloud, more international tech companies are building their own data centers on Australian shores.
Amazon Web Services is the latest, with the US company opening a cloud region in Melbourne this week, a decade after it launched its first in Sydney.
Microsoft and Google also have locations in several Australian cities.
More Australian data regions mean consumers can store data more easily and take advantage of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, said Rianne Van Veldhuizen, managing director of Amazon Web Services Australia and New Zealand.
“We’re here to help our customers reduce costs, become more agile and basically innovate faster,” she said.
“In Victoria you are closer to your customers. So that offers lower latency, higher network quality and advanced solutions.”
Having cloud regions closer to home will also improve privacy and security at a time when people are increasingly worried about data hacks, said technology expert Adel Toosi.
“If you have to send all the data that’s generated in the Australian region somewhere else, to another country or place, that’s a big problem,” said the Monash University lecturer.
“But now we have data centers that are managed on-premises, so you’re secure about where the data is going.
“Data centers are also managed by cloud providers and they have a lot of expertise and a very strong team working on security. So the cloud is safer in many ways.”
But the environmental impact of these “power-hungry” data centers is worrying, said Dr. Toosi.
Each individual server within a hub requires megawatts of energy to operate, and cooling systems are required to ensure the technology runs smoothly and safely.
“With more data centers, we generate more carbon footprint,” said Dr. Toosi.
“Aviation used to be one of the most polluting industries, but these cloud data centers come very close. We have to be very careful about that.”
dr Toosi said renewable energy sources like solar panels could be a way to reduce environmental damage.
Amazon Web Services has committed to running its entire business exclusively on renewable energy by 2030, with the company on track to reach its goal five years earlier.
It also forecasts that its Melbourne location will add $6.8 billion to Victoria’s economy over the next 15 years, along with 2,500 jobs annually across the network.
Van Veldhuizen said more Amazon data regions were launching in Australia, with smaller “local zones” already opening in Perth and Brisbane.
Amazon is expected not to be the only tech company to build more Australian data centers due to increasing demand for the cloud, expert Rajkumar Buyya said.
“Cloud adoption has grown rapidly over the past 10 years,” said the University of Melbourne professor.
“During COVID-19, more people were working from home and much of the access to computing functions was through the cloud rather than private servers.
“This model is becoming very, very popular because it’s a simpler form of computing.”
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