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China's underwater data center is a revolutionary move

By Xu Ying | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-11-28 15:47
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The first module of the Hainan Undersea Data Center. [Photo by Tang Fei/For chinadaily.com.cn]

In an era where data centers are becoming increasingly vital for our digital society, China has embarked on a groundbreaking endeavor to push the boundaries of innovation and sustainability.

Nestled off the coast of Sanya, Hainan province, China is in the process of constructing the world's first commercial underwater data center. This avant-garde project aims to revolutionize the industry by harnessing the power of the ocean depths while saving a significant amount of energy and land. With the potential to equal the computational abilities of about 6 million conventional personal computers, this underwater data center is poised to be a game-changer.

The data center modules of China's underwater facility are being carefully installed on the seafloor at depths of around 35 meters. Designed to withstand the harsh underwater conditions, these modules are expected to operate sustainably for up to 25 years. Each watertight storage module weighs an impressive 1,300 tons and boasts the capability to process over 4 million high-definition images every 30 seconds. When combined, the entire facility is projected to match the computational power of a staggering 6 million conventional PCs working simultaneously.

One of the most significant advantages of submerging the data center is the ability to leverage the natural cooling properties of seawater. By utilizing this innovative approach, the underwater data center is estimated to save a staggering 122 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually compared to its terrestrial counterparts. This remarkable achievement in energy efficiency showcases China's commitment to sustainability and reducing environmental impact.

Collaborative efforts for a sustainable future

The construction of the underwater data center is a result of collaboration between Sanya officials and several prominent Chinese tech firms. With the initial deployment of one storage module in April and the recent addition of a second module, the project is well underway. The ambitious plan aims to have a total of 100 modules fully operational by 2025, marking a significant milestone in sustainable data center development.

The motivation behind this pioneering project extends beyond technological advancement. By opting for an underwater data center, China is actively addressing the challenges of land conservation. Traditional data centers can occupy vast amounts of land, often equivalent to the size of multiple soccer fields. In contrast, this underwater marvel takes up minimal dry space, preserving land for other essential purposes. Additionally, the use of natural seawater cooling reduces the strain on traditional energy sources, leading to a significant reduction in carbon emissions. This environmentally conscious approach aligns with global sustainability goals and sets an example for the industry to follow.

Undoubtedly, China's underwater data center represents a landmark achievement in sustainable data center design. If successful, it will serve as a blueprint for future endeavors worldwide, showcasing the immense potential for performance, cost-efficiency, and land conservation that lie beneath the ocean's surface. The progress of this project will be closely watched by industry experts, highlighting the need for nuanced analysis in this evolving domain.

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on data centers, innovation and sustainability must go hand in hand. China's groundbreaking initiative demonstrates the possibilities when technology and environmental consciousness converge. By leveraging the power of the ocean depths, the undersea data center embodies a new era of data storage and processing, paving the way for a more sustainable digital future.

Xu Ying is a Beijing-based commentator. The article presented is solely the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of China Daily.

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