Alibaba Builds Lake-Cooled Data Centre

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Latest cloud move from Alibaba’s cloud division Aliyun sees Chinese data centre cooled by nearby lake water

Alibaba’s cloud computing division Aliyun (AliCloud) has finished building a data centre that will use fresh water from a nearby lake to cool itself for free.

The AliCloud Qiandao Lake Data Centre in China is said to incorporate a number of enivironmental designs that keep the data centre as green as it can be, in line with Alibaba’s self-professed “focus on sustainability”.

The data centre is Aliyun’s eighth globally, and follows a series of cloud announcements that have made clear Alibaba’s intentions of taking on Amazon Web Services, Amazon.com’s cloud division.

Free cooling

Alibaba’s data centre team said that it has determined that with proper use of the lake water, almost year round free cooling can be achieved under the optimal water temperature. The lake water could allow for free cooling in the data centre for more than 90 percent of the time without mechanical cooling such as air conditioning and chillers.

“At the AliCloud Qiandao Lake Data Centre, every drop of water contributes to the future of cloud computing and big data. With its smart use of lake water for cooling and recycling, the AliCloud Qiandao Lake Data Centre combines the best of natural resources with the comforts of modern city life and state-of-the-art technology in a unique way,” said Jian Wang, Chief Technology Officer, Alibaba Group.

The data centre is situated near Qiandao Lake, 225 miles from Shanghai in China’s Zhejiang Province.

Alibaba
Qiandao Lake is within the Xin’anjiang Reservoir in Chun’an County, China

Physical filtered lake water will be pumped into each level of the data centre. Then the returning chilled water runs through a 2.5km central canal across Qingxi New Town. In the future, the heat from return chilled water will be recovered for heating the buildings nearby, said Alibaba.

In July, Alibaba ploughed $1bn (£640m) of extra investment into Aliyun in an attempt to challenge US rival Amazon Web Services.

The announcement came just weeks after Aliyun made moves to woo US customers to its cloud service with a data protection pact that promised users complete control over their data.

Aliyun president Simon Hu has made no secret of the firm’s attempt to become a serious competitor to Amazon Web Services.

“Our goal is to overtake Amazon in four years, whether that’s in customers, technology, or worldwide scale,” Hu said in an interview. “Amazon, Microsoft and others have already laid the groundwork for us by educating the markets about cloud in the U.S. and Europe, so we have an even better opportunity to join in the competition.”

AliCloud also has data centers in Beijing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Silicon Valley, with a Singapore facility to come online shortly.

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