Macquarie launches new plan to fill data centre

Macquarie Corporate Telecommunications has signed a partnership agreement with software developer Micronet in an effort to attract customers to its $35 million hosting facility in Sydney, which stands largely under-utilised 20 months after opening.

While data centres on the whole are struggling to survive, ASX-listed Macquarie hopes the dilution of its partner ranks will create a sell-through of its storage architecture and managed storage service.

Micronet, which develops software for the retail and wholesale sector, plans to upload its customers' applications to Macquarie's data centre under a dedicated hosting model.

Micronet director Drew Arthur said this will allow the independent software vendor to "avoid the huge cost of infrastructure hardware" and offer a first-rate service to customers.

"Many SMEs run Micronet software in-house on file servers but find they don't have the adequate storage and backup systems," said Arthur. "By partnering with Macquarie, we make the sort of infrastructure and services you would expect in large-scale corporates available to smaller companies without the overhead."

Micronet has around 30 SMEs using its hosting model and estimates this will increase to around 150 in the next 12 to 18 months.

The ISV is in the process of commercialising a range of solutions using Macquarie's facility, including voice and data bundles. Arthur expects 15 per cent of Micronet's customer base to favour this selective outsourcing model when it is ready in around two months time. "This offering appeals to franchises in particular," he said.

Macquarie is also in discussions with Sun Microsystems and Microsoft to explore other avenues for customer referrals and will expand its Web development partners, of which there are currently five, including Cisco developer Hothouse.

Glen Noble, general manager of hosting solutions, said the criteria for partnering revolves around whether the companies have similar intent and complementary organisational structures. "We're only interested in arrangements where both parties can make a buck," he said.

The company posted an annual EBITDA loss of $15.6 million this year, $10 million of which was a brave, one-off, non-cash provision against the carrying value of the hosting facility, or Intellicentre as it is called.

Macquarie has been one of the first to accept the severe depreciation in the market value of data centres. It also admits that the ongoing weakness in the IT&T sector will mean that the returns originally expected on data centre businesses will be pushed into the future. Noble declined to say exactly when Macquarie expects it to be profitable.