The multi-building campus will cover 6.2 million square feet and include offices, call centers, restaurants, and living spaces, as well as what appear to be at least seven, low-slung data centers, each with 160,000 square feet, according to an architectural drawing of the site.
The data centers are located along a river and will be built according to the latest green construction concepts, said IBM's Steve Sams, VP of global site and facilities services, a unit of Global Technology Services. In some cases, water evaporation techniques have been used to cool a data center's ambient air in Google and Microsoft cloud data centers, instead of electricity-powered air conditioning.
Sams said the Langfang Range Information Hub will be the centerpiece of the Hebei Langfang Economic Development Zone, China's third development zone, slated to be completed by 2016. The other two already in operation are in the cities of Shanghai and Shenzhen. Hebei is the province that surrounds Beijing.
The data centers will be more than static, humming servers offering an infrastructure. "This will be kind of an IT hub for the whole development zone, with soup-to-nuts IT services," said Sams. The data centers will have a mix of users, including business, government, and software developers, and will offer a mix of IT services, including development environments, he added.
IBM will build the data centers with a mix of servers, unlike an Amazon Web Services EC2 data center or Google data center, which are based on x86 instruction set servers. Chinese banks are large mainframe users, Sams noted, so the Langfang site will include mainframes as well as IBM's own Power-based servers and Intel or AMD models. On the other hand, x86 servers make up its own public cloud offering in Raleigh, N.C., where IBM's iDataPlex architecture sought to create a dense, x86 blade server environment.
IBM is building the data centers with Chinese firm Range Technology Development. "The data center offers the world-class infrastructure capabilities and advanced, network-based services to support the business growth of our clients," said Zhou Chaonan, Range chairwoman.
Range will supply technology services from the data centers, including hosting systems for transportation management and e-government services, such as food and drug safety, electronic medical records, and other healthcare projects.
As news of the Hebei Langfong Range Technology hub was announced, Chinese planners also disclosed that they are considering combining nine cities in southern China, including Shenzhen, into a metropolis of 42 million people.
Sams said IBM's data center building business in China "is just exploding. It has tripled from what it was four years ago. China has passed Japan as our number-two data center building customer in 2010. I'm not sure when it will pass the U.S.," Sams said, but he expects it to in the future.
Two data centers are currently under construction at the campus, he noted.