Australia latches on to data vault idea

The first of what were to have been a chain of secure data vaults the length of New Zealand is set to open in Australia.

Prime mover Gary Connolly says after spending a year looking for financial backing to develop a network of centres in New Zealand, he has sold the intellectual property to an undisclosed Australian consortium.

At first Connolly lamented the lack of interest from Kiwi investors, saying he "wished" the network was going ahead in New Zealand.

But in a later statement by email the former Clear Communications internet services manager says he is "happy that we are not going to be hosting sensitive data on our own shores".

The vault plan was first raised following the Knowledge Wave conference last year. It had a claimed 45 backers then, among which were FoundryNet, EMC, Hitachi and Auckland UniServices.

A group calling itself Secure Data Vault New Zealand (SDVNZ) was formed, but it failed to raise capital, though some equipment was found for a small trial site on Auckland's North Shore.

Some five centres were mooted. Demand for them was initially fuelled by a desire for safe data havens, intensified by the post-September 11 2001 security climate.

Connolly says that backing up data is not a new idea, but the manner in which the front-end converses with the back-end, and how the data is wrapped and moved around, creates the difference.

"There is no inter-server communication live. So while data is being transferred from 'out there,' it is not communicating with the actual storage servers.

"The data vault structure means that no access is ever available through the environment; no two doors are ever open at the same time. This is what makes SDV different from data centres and, at that point, yes, there is IP, which is worth a few dollars," he says.

Connolly says no one else had any claim on the idea and while SDVNZ had called itself a "trust", that was never officially formed. While some equipment was used in the North Shore trial site, that has now been returned, with some never used.

"The ideas around the configuration and the set up were mine, so I have simply recouped my 12-month investment by letting the information go. What has gone overseas are the ideas around how to make a chain of secure data vaults," he says.

Connolly says he has sold the IP to Australian buyers with a security background, whom he won't name. He says they plan to create data centres outside the continent's main cities, for opening in 2003.

After lamenting Kiwi investors' aversion to risk and unwillingness to back the data vaults, Connolly later described the movement of the centres away from New Zealand as "a very positive result".

"The end was different to what I had envisaged at the outset, but all in all, after conversations with interested parties around the globe, I am happy that we are not going to be hosting sensitive data on our own shores. I hope we don't ever see this form of data storage happening in New Zealand. We should avoid the whole area," Connolly said.

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