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Facebook to build $1 billion data centre in Singapore, its first in Asia
The 170,000 sq mt facility in Singapore is expected to be operational in 2022.
Facebook to build $1 billion data centre in Singapore, its first in Asia

Facebook Inc today announced plans to build its first data centre in Asia, and its 15th worldwide. The 170,000 sq mt facility in Singapore is expected to be operational in 2022 and the social media giant said that it will invest around $1 billion in the project.

According to AFP, the renewable energy-powered data centre will be stacked over 11-storeys, and will come with custom features to cope with the city-state's steamy temperatures. These include a new state-of-the-art cooling system which uses water rather than air and will work better in the humidity, as well as a building facade made of perforated, lightweight material to allow for better air flow.

Thomas Furlong, Facebook vice president of infrastructure data centres, told reporters that the facility will host Facebook servers and centralise its IT operations. He added that Facebook had picked Singapore because of its robust infrastructure, availability of skilled labour and the ease of doing business with the government.

This development comes as US tech players have been lobbying against India's recent move towards data localisation, claiming that it would hinder their growth plans in the country. The recent Justice Srikrishna Committee report on Personal Data Protection recommended that every data fiduciary has to store one live, serving copy of personal data in India. But most foreign companies, including Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp, Amazon, American Express, Google and Microsoft, currently store most of their user data in servers located overseas.

Furthermore, the committee proposed that all "critical personal data" should be processed only within the country, and the government would define what kind of data would qualify. The draft personal data protection bill is currently open for public feedback - the government yesterday extended the deadline for comments till the end of this month. In the meantime, tech firms will be hoping they won't end up with inflated operating costs by having to set up domestic data centres.

Not to mention the many doubts stakeholders have on the quality of infrastructure and the security levels of Indian data centres. Although global commercial real estate agency Cushman & Wakefield sees India's data centre market mushrooming to $7 billion by 2020, it is still at a nascent stage, sharing less than 2% of the global data centre IT infrastructure.

In contrast, the agency ranked Singapore as the most robust market out of 10 Asian countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and China, in terms of business operations for data centres last October. And Facebook is not the only behemoth it has lured - Google has already built two data centres in the city-state, and recently announced plans for a third, bringing their total investment in the sites to $850 million.

Given that Asia is one of Facebook's fastest-growing markets, reportedly accounting for 40% of its 2.23 billion monthly active users (as of end-June), it makes sense that its newest data centre will be the largest in Singapore. The social media company's other 14 data centres are mostly located in the US and Europe.

With agency inputs

(Sushmita Choudhury)

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