The Australian Department of Defence has decided to move high-security files out of the Global Switch data center currently in use. The files will be transferred at the expiration of the current contract with Global Switch in 2020 and moved to government-owned data centers.
Concern over Chinese ownership of Global Switch apparently led to the decision, which could cost the government $200 million AU.
Ownership of the Global Switch data centers changed in December when UK-based Aldersgate Investments sold 49% of Global Switch to a consortium of Chinese businesses. At that time, politicians raised security concerns regarding the security of classified information held at Global Switch facilities, which led to an investigation by the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board.
Initially, the government attempted to exclude the Chinese consortium from involvement with the Australian data centers by requiring they be fully owned and operated by Aldersgate Investments.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said in an interview that the company had complied with this request and that the Global Switch data center in question was not owned by the Chinese consortium. He confirmed that the Sydney facility was specifically excluded from the Aldersgate – Elegant Jubilee deal.
“That data centre in Australia is not under Chinese ownership. It’s ownership hasn’t changed.” He went on to note, “When that company sought to have the Australian operations included in that deal, well, they did not proceed with that. They got a very clear message from the government about how the government would feel about being incorporated into that global deal.”
Even so, the decision was made to pull all sensitive data from Global Switch data centers at the expiration of the current contract, a move said by Morrison to be ‘entirely appropriate.’ The process of transferring sensitive files to a government owned, secure data center has already begun.
Damon Reid, group director for Global Switch, Asia-Pacific, said that the company is not a provider of IT solutions, but rather a real-estate business. He declined to address the issue directly but noted that Global Switch does not have access to any customer data held at its facilities.
“Our customers lease space which they fit out with their own servers. Global Switch operates under the highest levels of security and our shareholders are restricted from physical access to the data centre.”
The decision to step back from Global Switch may have been affected by the recent announcement of a partnership between Global Switch and Huawei. Huawei was blocked from tendering bids for the Australian National Broadband project in 2012, on the advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.