National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), and National Energy Administration (NEA) on May 26 jointly released an implementation plan to build data center clusters, as reported by Caixin on May 27. The plan selected Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region (BTH), Yangtze River Delta (YRD), Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), Chengdu-Chongqing Economic Circle (CCEC), Guizhou, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, and Ningxia as the sites for the initial national data center hubs. Among them, BTH, YRD, and GBA are eastern regions with first-tier cities as the core, while the rest are in western China. Correspondingly, the plan will further construct and upgrade network transmission channels between these national hubs to improve cross-regional computing scheduling ability.
In December 2020, the four departments proposed to strengthen the centralized development of data centers, based on which they released the implementation plan in May this year. With such a deployment, the country aimed to guide data centers to gather in western China and around first-tier cities, and position western data centers to undertake the data processing and storage needs of customers in the east. In the meantime, to avoid haphazard investments, the plan also specified thresholds, such as data center scales and energy-saving levels. For instance, at the early stage, it will allow the establishment of two data center clusters in the BTH, YRD, GBA, and CCEC for high-frequency real-time interactive business requirements, while only one in the four other provinces for background processing, offline analysis, storage backup, and other non-real-time computing requirements.
Previously, data service providers and telecommunication operators built data centers in various cities for their local businesses, making it difficult to exert economies of scale. Besides, in recent years, with the rapid growth of data centers, higher requirements were set for land supply, power security, climate conditions, and other factors. Chinese western regions have abundant renewable energy resources and suitable cool climate conditions for operating data centers, but are limited to small network bandwidth and high cost of interprovincial data transmission. Therefore, the construction of data center clusters and upgrading of network transmission channels will effectively enhance the computing power supply capacity of the western region to eastern China. In addition, the centralized construction of data centers will also help China achieve its carbon neutrality goal. Data centers have accounted for about 2% of the total electricity consumption in China, and the number is still growing rapidly. Through equipping renewable energy power stations around data center clusters in western areas, data centers can achieve cleaner and more sustainable development.