REANNZ moving to full service role, attracting commercial interest

The primary purpose of REANNZ is “quite different to your ordinary telecommunications provider,” chief executive Nicole Ferguson tells NBR Radio’s Andrew Patterson.

As the dedicated telecommunications network for New Zealand's tertiary institutions and crown research institutes (CRIs), the network is “here specifically to look after the challenging big data needs of the country’s research and education players."

However, REANNZ is also now attracting the interest of commercial companies, such as Wynyard with their own large data needs.

“We’ve got a role in helping them become successful as well,” Ms Ferguson says.

The decade-old organisation has changed a great deal since it was founded.

Ms Ferguson – who was appointed CEO in October last year and, at 31, is believed to be one of New Zealand’s youngest women tech heads – started working with REANNZ in 2008.

At that point it “was really looked at as a demand aggregator, to purchase capacity for the university and CRI sector,” she says.

Over the past three years, however, “we’ve really started to shift that – we’re becoming more of a full service organisation, helping our universities and CRIs out with how they do business on a daily basis, as well as some of the really high end, high performance needs of the people they’re supporting.”

One example Ms Ferguson cites of the work that REANNZ enables is a collaboration between NIWA and Oxford University on climate modelling.

“They’re transferring data from NIWA in Wellington across to Oxford University, which is then using compute power from people’s mobile phones and home devices to create the models that are interpreting that climate data and bringing it back to New Zealand.

"So there’s some really exciting science that’s happening globally that New Zealand’s able to participate in.”

The data transfer performance REANNZ provides is about “more than just capacity,” she says, “it’s how we look after the network to ensure your packets get from one end to the other as efficiently as possible.”

For the full interview and insights about REANNZ's evolving mandate, click on the special audio box at the top of this page.

Tune into NBR Radio’s Sunday Business with Andrew Patterson, launching this Sunday morning, for analysis and feature-length interviews.