Data-crunching hubs, centers to drive $62.9 bln in annual investment
China is taking steps to channel more computing resources from its eastern regions to its less developed yet resource-rich western regions.
The move is expected to inject new impetus into the digital economy and promote high-quality, sustainable development as well as to help reach the goals of carbon peak and carbon neutrality, officials and industry experts said.
It also dovetails with the acceleration of construction on an integrated national big data system, which is of great significance in boosting the free flow of data, optimizing the energy efficiency of data centers, speeding up digital transformation and upgrading industries, they said.
The country has recently approved the building of eight national computing hubs and plans for 10 national data center clusters as a way to improve overall computing power and resource efficiency, according to the National Development and Reform Commission, China's top economic regulator. Those projects, which mark the completion of the overall layout for the national integrated big data center system, were jointly approved by the NDRC and three other central government departments.
The eight national computing hubs will be built in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and Yangtze River Delta regions, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the Chengdu-Chongqing economic circle, the Inner Mongolia and Ningxia Hui autonomous regions and Guizhou and Gansu provinces, according to the NDRC.
"Computing power has already become an important infrastructure for national economic development," the NDRC said on its website, adding that it expects the country's demand for computing power to surge by more than 20 percent annually in the coming years.
While most of China's data centers are in eastern regions, shortages of land and energy resources in those areas threaten the sustained development of the data centers, it stated.
China's western regions, however, have no shortage of resources, especially renewable energy. That gives them the potential to nurture the development of data centers that meet the needs of data computing in eastern areas.
The projects also will help improve the nation's overall computing capacity, promote green development, boost investment in the industrial chain of data centers and facilitate the coordination of development among different regions, the NDRC said.
In the next step, China will speed up efforts to improve the influence of the eight national computing hubs to drive the integrated and coordinated development of data computing across the nation.
Building a national computing power network will enable the less developed regions to handle and store data transmitted from the economically advanced areas, optimize resource allocation and enhance efficient use of resources. That, in turn, will resolve excessive data surges and imbalances in regional computing capacity, experts said.
"The construction of computing power hubs and data center clusters is expected to drive 400 billion yuan ($62.9 billion) in investment each year," said Xu Bin, deputy director of the Innovation-driven Development Center, affiliated with the NDRC.
"The project is also expected to attract related IT industries, such as data annotation and data flow processing, to western regions, and help achieve the dual carbon goals," he said. Annotation is modifying raw data so machines can read it and act on it.
A large number of data centers are poised for location in western regions, which will greatly increase the use of green energy like photovoltaic and wind power, Xu said, adding that cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence and big data underpinned by data centers, will contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions.
After years of development, China has taken a leading global position in big data. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology unveiled a plan for the big data sector's development during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25), envisaging a scale topping 3 trillion yuan by the end of 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of around 25 percent.