China forges ahead with high-altitude cloud computing
China is building the world’s highest data centre 3,700 metres above sea level in the ancient Tibetan city of Lhasa.
Known traditionally as the Forbidden City, the high-altitude capital of Tibet’s Autonomous Region is home to numerous temples and palaces, including the red-and-white Potala Palace, which once served as the winter home of the Dalai Lama.
Tibet became an autonomous region of China in 1950. Since then, the Chinese government, which deems the region critical for national security, has dealt with demands from many Tibetans Northeast of the Himalayas, who want greater religious freedom and human rights.
The 645,000-square-metre data centre project, which will be built in three stages and has a completion deadline of 2025, is the brainchild of the Tibet-based Chinese technology company, Ningsuan Technology Group.
The first construction phase of the mountainside data centre, which is set to have annual revenues of $223.5mn, will be operational in 2021.
Reports suggest the $1.7bn facilities located in China’s state-run Himalayan industrial park, will house more than 10,000 machine cabinets and will serve the data storage needs of customers in Tibet, Nepal, Bangladesh, China and South Asia.
However, the move has not been without political fallout, with the ongoing debate surrounding domestic user data protection and foreign, authoritarian, state-controlled enterprises.
China has argued that the Lhasa data centre will protect Chinese firms from the high costs of storing data in local facilities. However, confirmation is required on whether the hub will also enable Chinese firms to store foreign data within China’s jurisdiction.
According to the RWR Advisory Group, a Washington, DC‑based research, analysis, and risk assessment firm, Tibet is emerging as an essential bridge for the expansion of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to South Asia.
In a released earlier this year on the Lhasa data centre project, RWR said; “This role is perhaps most prominent with physical connectivity efforts under BRI that link China with Nepal and India via Tibetan road and rail infrastructure. It appears, however, that Tibet is also being positioned to play a critical role in the regional expansion of China’s Digital Silk Road.”
Big businesses in the region are already keen to work with the facility, with Alibaba Cloud signing a framework cooperation agreement with Ningsuan Technology in 2018. The partnership will integrate the data facility with Alibaba’s cloud computing infrastructure and other IT services.
The collaboration will also see the companies build an AI platform created for business ecosystems which are geared towards essential industries, such as finance, power, security, defence and network communications in the Tibetan marketplace.
But business opportunities and politics aside, the mountainous region of Tibet, and Lhasa's temperate, cool climate, make it a data centre compatible location. The low average annual temperature that doesn't rise above 21 Celsius in the region's short summer months are ideal for keeping servers cool and lowering energy costs.
The decision is in line with current thinking as globally, data centre developers are choosing to locate new facilities in areas where the natural environment can be harnessed to reduce running costs and lower carbon footprints. Experts estimate that 40-55% of data centre expenses are used to keep cooling systems operational. Therefore, cold climates naturally reduce these outgoings.
China continues to invest heavily in the data centre industry, with Tibet confirmed as a new regional hub. , Ningsuan's vice president and chief marketing officer, was quoted recently saying that as Lhasa is being given the approval to become an exporter of regional and international communications services, Tibet will become a big data industry base, creating three-dimensional network interconnectivity across the Himalayan region.
Equinix: Digital leaders expect changes to working patterns
A global report released by Equinix has revealed that digital leaders expect long-term changes to the way people work.
As part of the report, the data infrastructure company surveyed 2,600 IT decision-makers from several different businesses spanning 26 countries in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions. The study also highlighted the biggest technology trends affecting global businesses and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted digital infrastructure plans.
Talking about companies’ expansion strategies, Claire Macland, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at Equinix, said: “Many companies are now investing more in their digital infrastructure to enable them to embrace a hybrid working model and thrive in the new world of work we all find ourselves in.
“Despite headwinds in many sectors, many organizations are continuing to expand physically and virtually into new markets and regions around the world”, she said.
The report drew the following conclusions:
- 64% of the 2,600 digital leaders surveyed believed there will be “long-term changes to both how and where people will work in the future.
- 57% of global companies intend to expand into new regions despite the effects of the pandemic
- 51% of businesses worldwide say they have rearchitected their IT infrastructure so that it can meet the demands of remote and hybrid working. Digital transformation has also been accelerated due to an increase in businesses’ technology budgets.
How might digital transformation be affected post-pandemic?
COVID-19 has demanded that companies make several changes to the way that they operate, including digital transformation. According to the study, 47% of those surveyed reported that they have accelerated their digital transformation plans because of the Coronavirus pandemic. A further 42% of organisations said their budgets have increased to keep up with the growth of digital transformation.
Another change in adapting to the pandemic was to businesses’ IT strategies with six in 10 companies saying that it has been revised in response to the situation. 58% said they are looking to invest in technology to “improve agility’ post-COVID.
When asked about their priorities for their digital strategy, 80% of respondents said that digitising their infrastructure was of utmost importance, while 57% viewed interconnection as a ‘key facilitator’ of digital transformation.
"This increasing focus on digitization and expansion is one of the reasons why Equinix has continued to invest in its own growth. We completed 16 new expansions in 2020—our most active build year ever—and expect to continue to evolve Platform Equinix to support our customers as they continue on their digital transformation journey”, said Claire Macland.
Potential concerns disperse over expansion plans being halted by COVID-19
The study has also revealed that organisations’ previous concerns that the pandemic will negatively affect their business expansion plans have been lessened.
57% of businesses have said that they “still have plans” to expand into new regions and of that percentage, nearly two-thirds (63%) plan to do so virtually instead of investing in physical IT infrastructure.
The full Equinix report can be found here.