China details relocation plan for up to five million datacenter racks

Wants latency-tolerant apps moved to new datacenters in remote western regions, other workloads out of big cities


China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has outlined plans for a massive migration of computing resources to more efficient facilities.

The Middle Kingdom has previously discussed plans to build clusters of datacenters in the nation's west – a region where the weather is cooler, renewable energy is more easily available, and space to build giant bit barns is easier to find. The plans are explicitly aimed at allowing China to build more and more efficient digital infrastructure.

The NDRC last week published a Q&A about that plan, in which officials revealed that plans for the "East and West" project have been completed and construction has begun on eight new computing hubs.

The document states that the new hubs are needed because China's datacenter fleet already exceeds five million racks of kit, delivering a collective 130 exaFLOPS of power, and grows at a rate of 20 per cent each year.

That growth can't be accommodated in China's East, the document states, as large populations mean there is too much competition for the resources datacenters require. The East and West plan therefore calls for latency-sensitive workloads to stay in the East and others to move out West.

But even in the Eastern locations, China's government wants datacenter migrations so that facilities aren't in locations like the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei urban cluster, the Shanghai-dominated Yangtze River Delta, or the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Operators have been told instead to consider nearby locations where there is less competition for land, water, and energy.

Workloads that will be kept in the East include the industrial internet, financial services, telemedicine, AI, disaster preparedness workloads, and video calls.

Workloads such as data processing, data cleaning, and data content services have been earmarked for a move West – and perhaps for a need to endure some less-than-brilliant reliability. The Q&A states the new hubs have a requirement for 65 per cent availability rates (although clustered designs could make for useful redundancy).

China has previously undertaken a shift in energy generation from East to West, so it has form pulling off this kind of shift.

No date for completion of the project has been set, but The Register is sure China will celebrate long and loud when it deems the job is done. ®

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