• The deployable network will improve the exchange of secret-level command and control data with Five Eyes partners. Image: Pixabay
    The deployable network will improve the exchange of secret-level command and control data with Five Eyes partners. Image: Pixabay

Defence has selected Canberra-based SME Datapod to provide relocatable data storage facilities in a deal worth $7.4 million.

Datapod provides modular, scalable, and custom storage facilities on that "overcome the main barriers to successfully deploying a new server room or data centre".

The facilities are based on an ISO-standard shipping container footprint and can be deployed in a wide variety of environments. They also have properties of a Faraday Cage, granting resistance to electromagnetic or electrostatic interference.

The company has existing contracts with Eaton Australia, a power management company, and has customers in Europe, the US, and in Defence industry.

The Request for Tender (RFT) for the project won by Datapod was listed on AusTender by the Department of Finance back in 2013.

The RFT states: “The Australian Government is seeking Data Centre suppliers to provide scalable and flexible arrangements to meet a wide range of Data Centre Facility Supplies requirements.

“Data Centre Facilities Supplies are to be provided and Data Centre Locations are to be located within Australia.”

The RFT specifies a capacity of a million voltage-amps, delivered over five years with total extension options of another five years.

The Defence contract with Datapod was awarded through a Data Centre Supplies Panel that is now run by the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). Panels are multi-agency standing tenders that emerged following the 2008 Gershon Review into the Commonwealth’s use of information and communication technology (ICT), which advocated for a reduction in agency autonomy when it comes to ICT procurement decisions.

There are 14 other companies on the panel, including Hewlett-Packard, Vocus, and Fujitsu.

Contracts can be awarded from all government agencies directly to entities listed on the panel. The panel was established in 2014 and concludes in 2019.

There is no cap on the value of contracts that can be awarded through the panel, and agencies are not required to approach multiple companies on the panel.

A spokesperson for the DTA told ADM that it took over management of the panel in 2017.

“The Department of Finance established the panel. Management of the panel was transferred to the DTA in May 2017,” according to the DTA statement.

“Agencies have the choice to approach one, a few, or all of the companies on the panel when they are seeking a quote.

"As a mandated panel, the capped term and value policy does not apply to contracts awarded through the panel.”

It is unclear how many Defence contracts are quietly awarded through uncapped RFTs listed under other government departments or through panels.

Defence is clearly keeping the purpose of the relocatable Datapod storage facility heavily under wraps.

A Defence spokesperson told ADM that the facility will “support Defence network operations,” and is due to enter service in 2019.

“Further details of the equipment or its intended use will not be released due to the sensitive nature of Defence network operations,” the DTA statement said.

This is the same answer given to other news organisations.

ADM also contacted Datapod, who were unable to provide comment on the project given its sensitivity.

When it comes to industry support of security-related contracts, the Defence community is understandably tight lipped about the finer details. Despite the likes of ASD now entering the Twittersphere and being relatively more open about what they do, information on who is contracted to provide what in the data and information space is still slim.

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