Google's New Data Centers Raise Asian Profile

Ralph Jennings

The Internet search engine Google announced this week it had broken ground on a third data center in Asia. The project in Taiwan is expected to increase search speeds and improve reliability in a region where Google hopes to claim a top spot amid fierce competition.

Google is wildly popular as an Internet search engine at home in the United States.  But it cannot claim dominance in Asia.

has long been a top player in Japan and Taiwan, while South Korea’s homegrown search engine Naver has a more than two-thirds market share in that country. In China, the world's single biggest internet market, Google shut down its local search engine two years ago under pressure from censorship and cyber-attacks. Today, China’s own Baidu handles about 75 percent of the country’s Internet searches.

Tech analysts say that Asian data centers, located physically closer to regional users, will make Google speedier and therefore more appealing. Google’s Asia-Pacific spokesman, Taj Meadows, says it is crucial for the 14-year-old company to grow along with the region.

“Asia is really the future of the Internet," Meadows declared. "If you look at the just pure number of users, users in Asia now make up more than one billion of the world’s Internet users, and that’s nearly half of world’s Internet use. And that’s with a just over 25 percent penetration rate. That means that if you look at where the Internet is headed in the years to come, Asia’s really going to come to dominate.”

Google announced on Tuesday plans to build a $300 million data center in Taiwan. It has already started work on similar projects in Hong Kong and Singapore, with total Asia expenses expected to reach $700 million. A data center normally contains computers, telecom equipment and storage systems that help speed up Internet connections and keep them secure. However, once operational, the centers require few employees. The facility in Taiwan will employ just 25 people full time.

Taiwan sits near high-speed, undersea Internet cables that extend directly from the United States. Some analysts say the Taiwan data center should be able to relay that speed advantage to users elsewhere in Asia. China, which is just 160 kilometers away from Taiwan, could notice faster Google search speeds.

Tracy Tsai, principal analyst with the market research firm Gartner, in Taipei, says the data centers are crucial to Google’s performance over the next three to five years.

“Google needs to secure the possible capacity that will be required to capture the business opportunities and also to serve the Asia Pacific region fast in terms of the speed and the quality," Tsai said. "So it does make sense a lot for Google to build a data center in the Asia Pacific to fulfill the future need in this region.”

Two years ago, Google signed a search engine technology deal with Yahoo in Japan that has eased the rivalry in that country. Taipei-based high tech venture capitalist Jamie Lin says the search engine also has recently gained in Taiwan. Google says the data center there will open at the end of next year.

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