Power-hungry data centres consume large amounts of energy to cool their computer networks as they are fitted with server racks that store and process internet data
To help cut the cost of cooling power-hungry data centres housing powerful computers and servers, China is looking to the sea, which would also reduce consumption of traditional energy sources in a sector known for its high electricity needs.
Work on the world’s first undersea commercial data centre has been commenced by the southern island province of Hainan, with completion expected in five years, the state assets regulator in Hainan said on its website on Monday.
Power-hungry data centres consume large amounts of energy to cool their computer networks as they are fitted with server racks that store and process internet data. At a data centre in China, power costs represent up to 70 per cent of operation expenses, according to statistics from Greenpeace.
Shenzhen-listed maritime tech firm Highlander is teaming up with the local government on the construction, and internet service provider Beijing Sinnet technology will oversee its operation in the future, it said.
The overall design of the centre has been finalised, and an initial survey of an area off the coast was done, it added.
Some experts say that by taking advantage of the consistently cool seawater, undersea power-hungry data centres would operate at greater power efficiency, but others are sceptical about investment returns and the reliability of undersea power-hungry data centres.
“Although power expenses might be lower than land-based data centres, the one-off investment at the beginning could be massive”, said Yang Zhiyong, an analyst at CCID Consulting, a state-backed IT consultancy.
“I’m sceptical about its profitability”. No investment value was given in the Hainan statement. It was also unclear who would be financing the project.
Microsoft, in 2018, lowered a non-commercial data centre the size of a truck about 35 metres (117 feet) into the sea off Britain. The miniature data centre was retrieved last year, and Microsoft declared the experiment a success.
The Hainan data centre is not big, with just 100 data cabinets, each containing several server racks. Small-to-medium power-hungry data centres on land typically house up to 3,000 server racks each.
“The technology for subsea data centres is not mature yet”, said Yang.
“I’m afraid, internet clients would probably not come to it first, as their major concern is the safety and stability of the data infrastructure”.