Underwater data centers aren't something new, with Microsoft and its Project Natick taking data centers into the depths of our oceans back in 2014, and now China has kick-started the construction of the world's first commercial underwater data center off the coast of Sanya, which is a coastal city south of Hainan Island.
In a new report from China Central Television (CCTV) each of the data storage units can process over 4 million high-definition images in 30 seconds, with an estimated performance of 60,000 regular desktop computer systems all working together. The first of the data storage units was installed back in April, but a few days ago, the engineers added another data storage unit on the sea floor south of the Hainan province.
The company has plans to install 100 watertight data storage units as the building blocks of its underwater datacenter dreams, with each of the data storage units weighing in at 1300 tons, which is the same as 1000 cars. Getting something that big and heavy to the bottom of the ocean isn't easy, as you can imagine. Each of the data storage units takes around 3 hours to move the 35 meters to the bottom of the ocean.
We are told that each of the underwater data storage units has a life of 25 years, so it can sit at the bottom of the ocean until 2050 or so... and hardware is going to advance so rapidly in that time, anyway.
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So, with each of the data centers capable of handling 4 million high-definition images every 30 seconds and the power of 60,000 PCs, the 100 of these bad boys working in unison when the entire system is complete will be capable of handling 400 million HD images per second, and the power of 6 million PCs.
Each data center is huge: up to 68,000 square meters, or the equivalent of 10 soccer fields. Each soccer field measures 7140 square meters... so China can spread these systems out without worrying about taking up too much space, given that they're sitting on the bottom of the ocean where no one else is. It's not prime real estate, right? That's where the huge space savings comes from.
There's also the power side of things, where 122 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and 105,000+ tons of freshwater will be saved each year. This is an easy one because the super-cold seawater can be used to keep the datacenter chips cool. Not only that, but regular data centers need water -- sometimes from the general population's water supply -- but an underwater system uses the water around it, so there are more savings there.
Pu Ding, the general manager of the UDC Hainan pilot development project, would be between 40% and 60% more power efficient than land-based data centers. Very cool to hear, pun not intended but it works.
The new Hainan Undersea Data Center is a joint project that's backed by the Sanya government and the Hainan Provincial State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission with companies, including Offshore Oil Engineering Company, Beijing Highlander Digital Technology Co., Ltd., and Shenzhen HiCloud in the forefront for construction, design, and implementation.
The data center will be operated by Beijing Sinnet, a leading data center and cloud computing provider based in China.
The project was announced back in 2021 and has an estimated completion date of Q2 2025 with a cost that is approximated at $879 million.