IBM's China Cloud Project: Exactly How Big?

IBM says it will team with China's Range Technology Development to build a cloud computing data center in Heibei Province that will be "the largest in Asia." But is it really 6.2 million square feet?

Rich Miller

January 25, 2011

3 Min Read
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IBM says it will team with China's Range Technology Development to build a cloud computing data center in China's Heibei Province that will be "the largest in Asia." Exactly how large? IBM says the Langfang Range International Information Hub will be 620,000 square meters, or about 6.2 million square feet.

Huh? That would make the Langfang site far and away the largest data center in the world. We asked IBM for details on the scope and construction plan of the data center, and were told the company couldn't disclose additional details of the project, which is scheduled for completion in 2016. Other media reports feature divergent numbers: eWeek says the data center will actually be 330,000 square feet, while Bloomberg is reporting the 620,000 square meter figure, but also quotes an IBM spokesperson as saying the center is "expected to employ between 60,000 and 80,000 people."

Mix of office, R&D and data center
Since it doesn't take 80,000 employees to run a data center, it seems clear that the Langfang project includes both data center space and office space. The Range Technology web site is in Chinese, but online translation tools suggest the project features a data center with 32,000 square meters of space (344,000 square feet) as part of a larger campus  dedicated to support and research. UPDATE: In a subsequent interview with DataCenterDynamics, IBM confirms that the project includes 340,000 SF of data center space, with the remainder for offices and housing.

While some elements of the news got lost in translation, there's no doubt that China represents a potentially huge market for cloud computing and data center services. International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the market for data center services in China reached $667.1 million in 2009 and is forecast to grow by $1.9 billion over the next five years.

IBM to design facility
In the Langfang project, IBM will provide data center design services for building the center. Range Technology will support independent software vendors and other enterprises for software product development at the new center. The facility will also support Langfang City’s development and hosting for smarter transportation, e-government services and administration systems, and food and drug safety services and supervision solutions. Range Technology has also developed plans to provide Hebei Province with the advanced capabilities in Electronic Medical Records management.

"This new facility will leverage IBM’s data center innovation and resources to provide a cost-effective solution while providing the flexibility to meet the unpredictable changes in IT demand – whether it is from changes in IT technology or new business models such as cloud computing," said Steven Sams, vice president, IBM Site and Facilities Services.

"The data center offers the world-class infrastructure capabilities and advanced network based services to support the business growth of our clients," said Madam Zhou Chaonan, Chairman, Range Technology Development. "This initiative plays a critical role in the economic development of China in light of the pressing demand for managed hosting in the areas of cloud computing and mobile devices."

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