Artificial karst caves in Guizhou to be used as cloud data centers by Tencent, Huawei

Updated 2018-03-15 09:39:04

Tencent is creating artificial caves in the karst hills of Southwest China's Guizhou Province for servers that will store its core big data, a video produced by financial news site lanjinger.com showed on Wednesday.

A government Weibo account post from Guizhou on Tuesday confirmed the construction work, and it revealed that domestic telecommunications company Huawei will do the same in the mountainous province.

In the video on lanjinger.com, which was apparently filmed by a drone, several giant concrete-lined caves are seen taking shape as construction workers dig into a karst hill alongside an expressway in the Guian New Area.

Guian is a national-level new development zone that lies at the juncture between provincial capital Guiyang and the smaller city of Anshun.

The development of the Guian New Area is heavily focused on big data and related services.

Tencent's choice of Guizhou aims to tap the province's hydropower, as well as its policy to develop itself as a center for big data.

"We are digging caves inside two hills in Guizhou, building the safest data center in China and we will store our best, most vital data there," Pony Ma Huateng, Tencent founder and chairman, said at a press conference in Beijing on March 3.

"The centers in the caves will have optimal temperature and humidity conditions, where air conditioners will achieve the best energy efficiency," Ma said.

Data that could be stored in this type of safe house would include cloud data, client data and industrial cloud data, according to Ma. Construction is nearly completed and server installation could start in a few months.

Fu Liang, an independent technology analyst, told the Global Times that in recent years data transmission costs and latency time have been reduced greatly, prompting a migration of data centers from coastal cities, where users generate the most data, to power-rich inland provinces.

"Users won't notice a thing, even as data comes from thousands of kilometers away," Fu said.

Following this trend, Apple built its northern China data center in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Amazon Web Services chose Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to locate its second data center in China. Both places are major power generation bases offering cheap electricity.

"Power bills are top concerns for data center owners. A regional cloud service center established by China Telecom in Inner Mongolia, which I once visited, consumed the equivalent of electricity consumption of the metropolis of Beijing," Fu told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that "cool weather helps ease heat" generated by clusters of servers.

Power costs, connectivity smoothness and auxiliary conditions such as policy incentives are the top reasons driving the migration of internet companies, Fu said. Hosting provinces benefit from selling their surplus power and accommodating big revenue-making enterprises.

Web users, however, have some concerns about the ecological impact of the project. One user named hhist said the ecology has been damaged. Another raised the issue of environmental impact approval.

In its Weibo account, the Guizhou local authority said that constant temperature and humidity conditions in the Guizhou hill caves will offer natural, high-quality storage grounds for data centers, which will become safest data centers in China.

The caves' floor space is about 40,000 square meters.

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