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Undersea data center proves its worth

By Chen Bowen in Haikou | China Daily | Updated: 2023-11-30 09:36

The core equipment of a commercial underwater data center is installed in Lingshui, Hainan, on Friday. CHINA DAILY

Underwater facility in Hainan offers storage, computing services for clients

More than seven companies and institutes — such as China Telecom, Tencent and Sanya Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City — have used the service of the world's first commercial undersea data center in Lingshui Li autonomous county in South China's Hainan province, according to its builder, Beijing Highlander Digital Technology Co.

The installation of the world's first commercial undersea data center will not only store data, but also serve as an undersea "supercomputer", which is equivalent to 60,000 regular computers operating in unison, and can process more than 4 million high-definition images within 30 seconds, China Central Television reported.

The clients can also use the center as their disaster backup resource pool, industry model, smart building platform, and intelligent computing center, according to its builder.

The core equipment of the commercial underwater data center, with a design life of 25 years, was successfully installed on Friday.

Weighing 1,300 metric tons, roughly equivalent to the weight of 1,000 cars, the equipment reached a depth of 35 meters after nearly three hours of submersion operations.

The center connects modules to a shore station using sea cables. Subsystems such as power distribution, networking and monitoring equipment are all located inside the shore station. Staff can keep an eye on the modules through an underwater monitoring system.

As the data center is located offshore on the seabed, seawater can provide natural cooling for the data modules. While consuming less energy, water and land area, the center also has the benefits of higher computing power density, better security and reduced network lag, according to its builder.

The center project plans to deploy 100 modules, and when completed will save 122 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, 68,000 square meters of construction land and 105,000 metric tons of fresh water per year compared to a traditional land-based data center of the same size.

Pu Ding, general manager of the center's Hainan demonstration development project, said it adopts gravity heat pipe technology and uses seawater as a natural cold source, which can achieve an overall energy efficiency improvement of 40 percent to 60 percent.

"The underwater data center makes full use of the underwater space, which can not only save the occupation of land resources, but also be away from the area of human activities, providing a stable environment for server work," said Xie Qian, senior engineer at the CTTL Terminal labs of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.

He added that it also provides a dust-free, oxygen-free environment, which will further protect server electronics and reduce faults.

As the "new business card" of Hainan Free Trade Port's science and technology, the world's first commercial undersea data center in Lingshui is expanding its application in the fields of Hainan's digital economy and cross-border data to create new momentum for the province's digital economy, according to its builder.

The builder plans to promote the center's service in the Yangtze River Delta, the Greater Bay Area and overseas. Recently, they had international visitors from Singapore, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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