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China to build cloud computing city

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As the sprawl of power-hungry data farms has given way to full-blown data cities, environmental groups worry that the IT industry will become even more of an emissions beast.

China is building a super-sized data complex with that will rival entire cities.

Government officials have allotted 6.2 million square feet in the country's Hebei Province to the project, which includes 646,000 square feet for a data center that will be Asia's largest. IBM has signed on to partner with China-based Range Technologies to build the data center to be completed in 2016. The complex will also feature office buildings and perhaps some residential homes.

The move is a sign that the far east nation is stepping up efforts to grow its IT infrastructure to meet a surging demand for cloud computing and other data services. Chinese investment in data centers have tripled from four years ago and the country has already surpassed Japan as our number-two data center building customer, according to Information Week.

But as the sprawl of power-hungry data farms has given way to full-blown data cities, environmental groups worry that the IT industry will become even more of an emissions beast.

Last month, I wrote about the debate over whether cloud computing data centers can really be considered green since they still consume enormous amounts of electricity, albeit less than standard server farms.

China's increased investment in data centers will likely give environmentalists more sleepless nights since the nation is already the world's top producer of CO2 emissions and has had a reputation for relentlessly industrializing with little regard to the environmental consequences that come with it.

Dale Sartor, an engineer at U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is aware of the fresh concerns posed by the rise of Chinese data centers. He spoke to Computerworld about his team's efforts to ensure that China's data centers are built with energy efficiency in mind:

Sartor, who leads a team of energy efficiency specialists, is on a project to "scope" out the possibility of helping the Chinese on data center energy efficiency issues, something the Energy Department has already been doing in India for several years.

Among the things Sartor is working on, in an effort that includes the China Electronics Standardization Institute, is data center standards development. He said there is a lot more regulation in China on data center design, but these regulations "haven't to date paid a lot of attention to energy efficiency."

There are some encouraging signs that China is at least motivated to improve date center energy-effiency. The government has recently passed a mandate to reduce the economy’s energy consumption. And energy costs saved through more energy-efficient technologies is a stronger incentive for China than some other economies.

To get a better idea of the important role that data centers will play in meeting our ever increasing computing needs, here's an excellent  infographic created by Peer1.com that explains how the various ways they impact our lives:

Photo: IBM

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure