The short-form videos on TikTok are bite-sized. But the rapid growth of the social media service is prompting its parent company to take big bites of data center real estate.
Chinese company ByteDance leased 9 megawatts of data center space in Ashburn, Virginia during 2019, according to a new report from North American Data Centers. The deal was the year’s largest new lease in Northern Virginia and establishes ByteDance as an emerging player in the market for hyperscale data centers.
ByteDance operates TikTok, which has quickly become popular with teens and young adults in both Asia and the U.S. and now has an estimated 800 million monthly users. Sixty percent of TikTok’s American users are between the ages of 16 and 24, and users are said to average more than 50 minutes per day on the app.
The growth of TikTok reinforces the speed with which new services can vault into the ranks of the largest users of data center capacity. The service was launched in 2018 after ByteDance acquired Muscial.ly, a social network initially focused on karaoke and lip-syncing videos, and merged it with a similar service.
Less than two years later, the service is a major tenant in “Data Center Alley.”
TikTok’s job listings for positions in Ashburn say the company deploys “tens of thousands of servers” in its data centers, which ByteDance describes as “the foundation upon which our rapidly scaling infrastructure efficiently operates and upon which our innovative services are delivered.”
TikTok operates in more than 150 countries around the world. Although ByteDance is based in Beijing, the company says no TikTok user data is stored in China.
“We store all TikTok US user data in the United States, with backup redundancy in Singapore,” the company said. “Our data centers are located entirely outside of China, and none of our data is subject to Chinese law.” ByteDance operates a separate service called Douyin to serve the Chinese market.
The company recently said it would build a data center in India within the next 18 months to address data sovereignty concerns from India’s technology ministry. The U.S. government has also reportedly opened a national security review of TikTok after lawmakers raised concerns. It is among a number of Chinese technology firms that have drawn scrutiny during trade tensions between the Trump administration and China.
TikTok gained notice for its cultural impact in 2019 for launching the viral hit “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, which became a global phenomenon and topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts for a record 17 weeks.