World’s first commercial undersea data center in smooth operation

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The world’s first commercial undersea data center, deployed in Qingshui Bay, Yingzhou township, Lingshui Li autonomous county, south China’s Hainan province, is in stable operation, said Pu Ding, general manager of the center’s Hainan Pilot development project.

Weighing 1,300 tons, the facility is placed on the seabed 35 meters below the sea surface.

Pu said that servers of data centers generate a significant amount of heat while running, and it takes a substantial amount of electricity and freshwater to cool them down via air conditioning and other cooling methods. The undersea data center, on the other hand, utilizes seawater as a natural cooling source, which helps reduce energy consumption and consumes nearly no freshwater, thus supporting higher power density and improving computing performance.

“Data centers are densely packed with various electrical appliances, posing a high risk of fire. Therefore, data centers worldwide pay special attention to fire prevention. In the undersea data center, inert gas is filled to create an oxygen-free and dust-free, sealed environment, further protecting the electronic components of servers and reducing the occurrence of accidents,” said Pu. 

Locating the data center under the sea significantly saves land resources, keeps it away from human activities, and provides a stable operating environment for servers, Pu added.

“The first batch of modules of the commercial undersea data center in Lingshui is currently running smoothly, with all data tests showing positive results. Compared to servers of similar capacity, it is 40 to 60 percent more power efficient, featuring high computing power, low energy consumption, high security, and low latency,” said Pu.

It is learned that a total of 100 data modules will be set up for the undersea data center. Once completed, the data center will save a total of 122 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, reduce land usage by 68,000 square meters, and save 105,000 tons of freshwater each year.

The undersea data center is not an “isolated island.” It also includes a shore station, underwater relay station, and submarine cables.

“The undersea data center itself is green and low-carbon, and we also adhered to ecological conservation during its construction,” said Pu. When submarine cables were laid, directional drilling was employed to make sure that they pass through mangroves from below, so as to protect the plant to the maximum extent possible.

In the control room of the shore station, various parameters are shown on a big screen, and monitoring devices are recording the operation and load status of each server in real-time. A digital twin system also presents the operational status of customer’s business.

The shore station occupies an area of only a few hundred square meters and has less than 10 staff members. With an intelligent remote control system, it can reduce the daily inspection work of the operations and maintenance personnel, thereby lowering the operational costs in the long run.

“When the data modules were sealed, each bolt must be tightened in the proper order and with the specified torque, accurate to the millimeter level. To achieve this, we developed a set of operating procedures.” Pu noted, adding that during the research and development phase, the team successfully tackled a series of technical challenges, resulting in a design life of 25 years for the data module.

The deep sea water serves as a natural barrier for the data center, reducing the risk of natural disasters. “During the research and development process of the undersea data center, we took into full consideration the external impacts of extreme conditions such as typhoons and earthquakes, and formulated corresponding contingency plans,” Pu said. 

According to a semi-annual operational report released in July 2023, Typhoon Talim, the fourth typhoon of the year, had basically no impact on the undersea data center.

“We have attracted top cloud computing companies to collaborate with us in building a ‘dedicated cloud’ and have upgraded the business model of the undersea data center,” said Li Jiawen, deputy general manager of Shenzhen Hicloud Data Center Technology Co., Ltd., the developer of the project.

What is called a “dedicated cloud” refers to cloud computing services that clients can customize and purchase, provided by Shenzhen Hicloud Data Center Technology Co., Ltd. and its partners. This model greatly lowers enterprises’ access to the services of the undersea data center.

“The ‘dedicated cloud’ devices in the undersea data center are like a deep-sea ‘supercomputer’, with computing power equivalent to 60,000 traditional computers running simultaneously, capable of processing more than 4 million high-definition images within 30 seconds,” said Li.

Prior to the launch of the data center, Shenzhen Hicloud Data Center Technology Co., Ltd. had already signed contracts with institutions and companies such as Yazhou Bay Science and Technology City in Sanya and TRS Information, which accounted for over 50 percent of the total order volume.



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