Lower costs help NZ pip Australia for F5 Networks support centre

Australia may have enjoyed success in luring investments by overseas security vendors like CipherCloud, ESET and Vormetric, but good access to security skills and a lower operational cost base tipped the scales in favour of New Zealand as application delivery and security firm F5 Networks decided where to open its latest regional security facility.

The facility, which opened this month, is the company's fifth Asia-Pacific facility – joining sites in Japan, Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore – but will play a more global role because the Chinese and Japanese sites are more specific to local languages.

F5 did look at a range of sites in Australia – including a number of regional locations – but it was ultimately the ready availability of skills that drove the company to invest in its Auckland facility.

"We did look at centres in Australia, but felt they didn't necessarily have the calibre of technical capability that we need to do high-level customer support," explains ANZ managing director Tony Bill, who joined the company earlier this year after many years at HP with a goal of shoring up the company's regional support presence and help execute on its Synthesis vision.

"There needed to be a very high level of skill sets around the application networking space, around security, and around cloud enablement and mobility," he continues.

"In Auckland, we found very good access to high-calibre technical people. We haven't had any problems sourcing people who want to come work for us. And we found the overall costs of the setup we required to be more cost effective out of Auckland than out of Australia."

The company has already hired ten employees for the centre – running them through an eight-week intensive training course in Seattle – and will double this in the next 12 months as the facility increases its role in the company's follow-the-sun global support practices.

As well as being further from the Singapore time zone for handoff, the New Zealand site is also "gave us better access into the West Coast US timezone," Bill says.

While many companies automatically head to Sydney when setting up ANZ and Asia-Pacific regional facilities, Bill believes Australian companies won't always be able to take this for granted.

Read more: NATO security certification opens new markets for Australia's Senetas

Skilled staff "are absolutely out there if you're looking," he says. "In a broader context, I think Australia continues to run the risk of losing highly skilled talent to overseas ports whether in Asia or the US."

F5 is initially working out of The Generator, a serviced-office facility, but Bill expects to soon move into a larger and more permanent facility in the Auckland CBD.

"This is part of our global strategy, and we have a long-term commitment to both having an in-region support centre and also to Auckland as a location."

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