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Google Opens Data Centers in Asia

Internet giant's new data centers in Taiwan and Singapore will serve a region with a skyrocketing population of Internet users.

Google opened its newest data centers earlier this month in Taiwan and Singapore, setting up the Internet giant to capitalize on one of the Internet's fastest growing regions.

"While we've been busy building, the growth in Asia's Internet has been amazing," Joe Kava, the company's VP of data centers, wrote in a Dec. 10 blog post. "Between July and September of this year alone, more than 60 million people in Asia landed on the mobile Internet for the first time. That's almost two Canadas, or three Australias."

That's not all. Cloud computing also has emerged as a technology platform for business and consumers alike, and that's made it increasingly important for companies like Google to put their data centers close to potential customers.

"There's tremendous demand for data and content from anyone providing a cloud, and at some point latency and throughput can only be addressed through close-by, local presence," Jeff Boles, senior analyst at Taneja Group, said via email. "These leading cloud providers have pole-vaulted their capabilities ahead so rapidly that they can get the right data to any of their data centers, irrespective of where it was originally stored, so these localized data centers are growing in importance for these strategic providers."

Meanwhile, Mike Matchett, another Taneja Group senior analyst, said via email that it may be more than a matter of cloud strategy -- it could be Google's way of protecting users in far-off lands from the kind of snooping to which Americans have been subjected.

"In light of the Snowden revelations, we would expect companies to require more and more of their data to stay local," said Matchett. "That might stretch not only to cloud services and storage, but also to other services including some Google might offer now or might plan to offer in the future."

Google's Taiwanese facility sits on 1,500 acres of land in a coastal industrial park in Changhua County, about three hours south of Taipei. Kava wrote that the data center, which is shadowed by nearby 100-meter wind turbines, becomes one of Asia's most environmentally friendly.

One way Google is backing up that claim: It's using an approach unique among its data centers by using nighttime cooling. A thermal energy storage system cools the water at night, when temperatures are cooler, and then stores the cooled water in insulated tanks for use in cooling servers during the day.

[Get advice on ways to avoid costly data center outages in "Tips For Preventing Data Center Outages."]

Long-term investment in the facility will reach $600 million, Kava wrote, more than double the initial planned investment. That increase may be related to Google's earlier decision, reported recently by the Wall Street Journal, to shelve plans to build a data center in Hong Kong.

Google will invest much less in the Singapore data center -- about $120 million. But the facility is notable for its unusual design: It's Google's first urban, multi-story data center, a reflection of the scarcity and expense of real estate in the tiny island nation. Boles said that multi-story data centers are not unprecedented, citing Fidelity Investments' recent move to commercialize its factory-built, multi-story Centercore design.

And while multi-story data centers probably don't hold that much promise in a market like the U.S., where real estate is abundant, they could become "the de facto standard in the highly populated Asia-Pacific region," Boles said.

“Fidelity and Google are demonstrating that multi-story can deliver some benefits in both resulting systems architecture and sustainable real-estate use, while remaining cost competitive with traditional data center designs," he said.

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