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March 29, 2012

China Supercharges Cloud Centers

Tiffany Trader

Despite the red curtain, China’s cloud computing aspirations are no secret. According to CCID Consulting predictions, reported by Want China Times, China’s cloud computing market is expected to reach 60.6 billion yuan (US$9.58 billion) this year, while China’s 12th five-year economic plan (2011-2015) predicts the domestic cloud computing market will grow to between 750 billion and 1 trillion yuan (US$118.6 billion and US$158 billion) by 2015.

This week an article from Datacenter Dynamics reveals that China has established Cloud Computing Centers in Chengdu, Jinan, Shenzhen and Changsha. While governments around the world are adopting cloud-first IT policies, China has taken a unique approach in building its cloud centers next to regional supercomputing sites.

Essentially, the cloud centers are supply chain partners for China’s supercomputing hubs, and as with China’s supercomputing program, are tasked with facilitating industry and government needs.

A China Daily article provides insight into just how the Chengdu center, the country’s first major cloud project, is being used:

…Chengdu will construct four basic platforms of cloud computing for government affairs, society, enterprises and high performance computing. Among them, the government affairs cloud computing will mainly focus on harmonizing resources and city management, the social cloud system will cover public service and social application, the enterprise cloud computing will mainly serve the industrial park and enterprises, and high-performance cloud computing will be oriented to high-end application systems of industrial design and analogue simulation.

Some key facts for the various centers:

Chengdu Cloud Computing Center

  • China’s first major commercially-operated Cloud Computing Center, launched on December 28, 2009.

  • Built by Chengdu Supercomputer Center Co. and powered by the Dawning 5000 supercomputer.

  • Serves governmental applications and scientific computing for the Western part of China.

  • Goal: to become the world’s largest cloud service and terminal product manufacturing base.

Jinan Cloud Computing Center

  • Inaugurated on July 22, 2011.
  • Jointly run by the Jinan Municipal Government and Inspur Group, a IT supplier focused on cloud solutions.

  • Core equipment is all Chinese-made.

  • Tasked with supporting China’s industrial base, as well as advancing China’s cloud know-how in the areas of security and systems.

The Shenzhen Cloud Computing Center

  • Completed acceptance testing on January 3, 2012.

  • Home to Nebulae supercomputer, built by Dawning (now Sugon).

  • Will support the previously under-served southern parts of China.

  • Potential workloads: weather forecasting, telecommunications, automotive, batteries.

Changsha Cloud Computing Center

  • Opened on July 9, 2011.

  • Home to the Tianhe-1 supercomputer, built by the Chinese National University of Defense Technology (NUDT).

  • Consists of 3 parts: Tianhe Square, the Tianhe Computing platform and an R&D center.

  • Mandate: to help the Hunan Province advance its industrial, agriculture and information process industries.

Criticism of China’s computing strategy continues to center on a particular short-coming, namely a deficit of real-world applications. As pointed out in Want China Times, there is a big push to build cloud datacenters, but not as much thought or planning goes into how the systems will be used. In the same article, Tian Feng, supervisor of telecom equipment provider ZTE, notes that cloud computing centers in Beijing, Shenzhen and Chongqing are seeing utilization rates of 25% or lower. The analysis mirrors that of the Wall Street Journal piece on “China’s Not-So-Super Computers.”

WSJ contributor Bob Davis notes that despite major accomplishments, “China’s bureaucrats … haven’t figured out how to mount software development projects that come close to U.S. or European standards. Chinese scientists also lack the funding, and freedom, to explore technologies that haven’t already been endorsed by the government, which can keep them well behind the cutting edge.”