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New platform for IT staff

Published on Friday, 30 Nov 2012
Indicators point to a booming data-centre sector in Hong Kong, with Google and Apple joining HSBC and Japan’s NTT.
Photo: iStockphoto
Andrew Sampson
Photo: Berton Chang
Catherine Cheng
Photo: Berton Chang

First, Google purchased 2.7 hectares of land in Tseung Kwan O to build a data centre. Now Apple is following in Google’s footsteps with plans to build its own data centre in the same district. Reports suggest the leading technology company will begin work in the first quarter of next year, with plans to open the facility in 2015.

Several other companies, including HSBC and Japanese telecom giant NTT, already operate data centres in the district.

The data-centre sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in Hong Kong and the government is committed to positioning the city as a prime location for data centres in Asia-Pacific.

There are a number of ways to accommodate data centres in Hong Kong. These include converting existing industrial buildings, constructing on available greenfield sites, and urchasing or renting space in the open market.

The Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation also owns and manages three industrial estates – in Tseung Kwan O, Tai Po and Yuen Long – that are ripe for data-centre developments.

“We are seeing a lot of new data centres being built,” says Andrew Sampson, general manager, Hong Kong and Macau, of Hitachi Data Systems. “The variety we’re seeing is also getting wider. For customers, there are many more choices.”

He says that since the quality, services and prices of data centres are becoming more varied, users need to be more precise in understanding what their requirements are.

“Sometimes people just evaluate data centres on the facilities, but the quality of the service is important as well,” Sampson says. “Do they have good security controls? If you need to make a change, do they respond quickly? If you need more bandwidth, can they provide this quickly?”

One thing that can happen to companies building up an information technology (IT) infrastructure is that different business units can purchase different systems, which will end up being inefficiently used and managed, Sampson says. “Companies should start off with a common architecture that is consistent across all its applications,” he says.

A company whose core business is not IT-related will commonly outsource its IT functions to a service provider, particularly given recent hiring challenges in the IT sector.

“The supply of IT workers has decreased but the demand has not,” says Catherine Cheng, vice-president of human resources and administration at Automated Systems Holdings (ASL). “The move to cloud computing and increased use of data centres mean there is a greater need for talent.”

At least 70 per cent of ASL’s workers are technical staff and turnover is quite high, mainly due to fierce competition. “It is normal for younger workers to change jobs every couple of
years,” Cheng says.

ASL plans to recruit more fresh graduates and provide them with a mentorship programme “to nurture them when they are fresh”, Cheng says. The company is targeting local and mainland students for their business in Hong Kong and Greater China.

To help retain staff, the company uses its diversified business portfolio to offer exposure to different services.

“A common need for IT staff is to work in an environment when they can learn new things and stay ahead of the industry,” Cheng says.

The company focuses on continuous development by arranging training courses on technical skills, management skills and leadership skills, as well as on providing sponsorship for further study.

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