China has authorised plans to construct four “mega clusters of data centres” for the country’s internal data usage needs.

Reuters, citing China’s top state planner on Wednesday, reported that the four so called “mega clusters of data centres” will be situated in the country’s north and west, and will help satisfy the data requirements of Beijing and major coastal centres,

Besides increasing capacity internally for the country, these new facilities will also increase China’s ranking in worldwide data centre capacity.

Energy constraints

In 2015 Synergy Research Group found that China hosted 10 percent of the world’s major cloud and internet data centres, making it home to the second largest number of data centres.

And remember, that was six years ago.

That same research six years ago also found that the United States accounted for 44 percent of the major data centres that powered the world’s Internet.

But this week China’s state planner (the National Development and Reform Commission) has approved data centre clusters to be built in the northern Inner Mongolia region, northwestern Ningxia region, Gansu province and southwestern Guizhou province.

The four locations can use their energy and environmental advantages to set up green and low-carbon mega data centres, the state planner was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Data centres notoriously utilise lots of electricity, hence construction of modern data centres tends to focus heavily on renewable energy, in order to lower long-term power costs.

Reuters reported that data centres in China’s east have found it difficult to expand due to limits imposed by local governments on electricity consumption.

Indeed, it states that some cities in China’s northern and western regions that are rich in renewable energy resources (i.e. wind and solar power) have already built data centres to serve the economically developed coast.

New facilities

But China is a huge country and their distant locations has meant those data centres have reportedly struggled to provide the near-instantaneous retrieval demanded by coastal clients with little tolerance for delays.

Reuters stated it was unclear how China would turn the new facilities in the western and northern regions such as Ningxia and Gansu, which are 1,000 km (600 miles) from the coast, into actively operating data centres given the data latency caused by the huge distances to data users in the east.

It cited a marine economy development plan published on 14 December, which encouraged major coastal cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Zhuhai to relocate high energy-consuming data centres to underwater locations in order to cut energy used for cooling.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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