Apple Preps for Data Center Launch, Possible Expansion

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Apple’s mysterious North Carolina data center facility is ready to go online potentially within days, and the company is apparently already considering doubling the facility’s size. The current building covers some 500,000 square feet, as will the reported second building.

Local officials claim the data center should go into operation “any day now,” according to Data Center Knowledge. Apple executives have said they planned to bring the facility online before the end of the year, although they haven’t confirmed exactly what the facility’s purpose will be.

Even though the data center hasn’t gone into action yet, Apple is already considering building a second 500,000 square foot facility next to the first, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. If true, it would appear Apple’s plans for the center have already grown beyond the building’s capacity.

Apple started building the data center in Maiden, North Carolina, in August using local contractors and materials whenever possible. Presumably the Cupertino-based company would do so for the second building, too.

Apple hasn’t confirmed that it is building a second structure at its North Carolina site, nor has the company ever confirmed what it will be using the facility for. Arial photography, however, seems to indicate the a second data center could already be on the way.

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Comments

geoduck

I wold love to get a tour of that place.

Intruder

Arial photography? We can take pictures with fonts now?

ibuck

Doubling, or increasing, the size/capacity seems like putting all your eggs in one basket. With weather “events” increasing in frequency and severity, what happens if this facility gets knocked off-line? Earthquake, tornado, hurricane, floods, or mudslides can reduce essential services like communications, electricity, etc.

Maiden, NC, being NW of Charlotte and well inland, somewhat lessens the risk from hurricane wind damage, but not from rain. Will Apple keep open the smaller California facility, which is at risk from earthquakes? 

Whatever service Apple is planning, 99+% up-time will be expected. Hopefully, Apple has carefully conducted a thorough risk assessment for Maiden’s weather, and reliability of area communications and power grid.

geoduck

what happens if this facility gets knocked off-line

Exactly why I don’t use or recommend ‘cloud’ services for essential functions. If my company e-mail server goes down I can fix it. If something happens to G-Mail my users are stuck. If one of the Accountants OpenOffice Calc program gets messed up they can jump to another system. If GoogleDocs gets messed up they are stuck.

I’ve really come around on Cloud Computing. It’s good for some things especially nonessential ones. However I still want my essential functions close to home.

Lee Dronick

Arial photography? We can take pictures with fonts now?

Good one!

Brad Cook

Isn’t this most likely for the Mac App Store? Those downloads are going to be much bigger than the ones for iOS, and Apple is hosting and distributing them, correct?

Apple is likely planning to do more with cloud computing, but the Mac App Store seems like the main reason for this data center going online soon.

black

Looks like it could be for the new mac app store?

jfbiii

Looks more like a parking area than a second data center of equal size.

gslusher

Earthquake, tornado, hurricane, floods, or mudslides can reduce essential services like communications, electricity, etc.

Take these one at a time:

1. Earthquake: low risk, plus it’s not hard to design a building to be earthquake resistant for the level of quakes that might be expected there.

2. Tornado: a potential risk. There was a spate of tornados in that general area last March, from various news sources. However, tornado damage is highly localized and, again, it’s not hard to design buildings that can resist the periphery of a tornado, if not a “direct hit.”

3. Hurricane: Biggest danger is flooding. Most hurricanes that get that far inland (e.g., Hugo in 1989) are tropical storms/category 1. Wind damage to trees, power lines, etc, can be extensive. Again, though, it’s not hard to design a building—especially a low, flat building!—that will resist wind damage. It could have its own emergency powerplant, as well.

4. Flood: I checked the North Carolina flood maps. The site is well out of the 100-year flood zone. This isn’t surprising. I doubt that the civil engineers who sited the facility were naive or stupid.

5. Mudslides: Mudslides occur next to hills/mountains. This is the Piedmont area of North Carolina. There are no significant hills to speak of near the site.

Substance

Doubling, or increasing, the size/capacity seems like putting all your eggs in one basket. With weather ?events? increasing in frequency and severity, what happens if this facility gets knocked off-line?

I’m sure Apple is preparing themselves for just such a calamity by building more data centers out of the public view.  I’m guessing an underground facility somewhere in the rocky mountains and another one on some remote Pacific island.  Why build one when you can three at 3 times the price?

Substance

I could see them building the first 500K sq. ft. for the initial launch of whatever-it-is-they-are-building-up-for and another one for future expansion.

spudgeek

Why would anyone think a datacenter of this size would be for a single business application? Apple business lines have expanded immensely in depth and breadth over recent years, it’s logical that the company needs to expand their IT infrastructure to support business and consumer services.

Apple consumer services have grown from iTunes downloads and .Mac/MobileMe services to media streaming (aTV media purchase/rentals and iOS) and App Stores. The acquisition of Lala is evident of further plans. The new datacenter will likely support all of these business lines and corporate applications.

Cloud computing is just common sense these days. Companies including Apple will probably offer secure fail-safe storage and streaming of personal content to consumers especially as we have a growing need to access our data from multiple and mobile devices. I know many of you feel like your data is safe and more accessible nicely tucked away in your own hard drive(s) - but it just isn’t. Yes it is more local and not vulnerable to network outages but it’s not 1984. Think: moving your money from your mattress to the bank! The bank might be more attractive for thieves but your money’s safe and accessible regardless of the “elements”.

Speaking of elements, I trust that the engineers and architects behind the new datacenter have put great consideration into Disaster Planning including location, high availability, and data mirroring otherwise… well there is no “otherwise”... I trust it’s done. Wouldn’t it be funny though, if they read this stream of comments and thought “oh sh!t…”

Lastly, I can confirm with absolute and unbending confidence that Apple is considering expanding the new datacenter either locally or at a different location… unless of course Apple feels that the company is reaching a business plateau!

MacKeeper_fan_Mod

I would imagine it’s for things such as FaceTime For mac that need a data center to connect, or for Ping.
There’s many things it could be for.

ibuck

@ gslusher and others:

My comments regarding possible risks at Maiden involve the surrounding area, not just the Apple facility. If communications or power are out for days/weeks due to heavy rains from a hurricane (even Category 1), it doesn’t matter if Apple’s facility is undamaged. The Piedmont (meaning foot of mountain) area is hilly, and Apple’s facility appears to be atop a hill and beside a creek (see the line of trees near bottom of photo). And hillsides slide if wet enough, or if water runs by fast enough or high enough. And hurricanes, though weakened over land, still carry enough water to flood enormous areas and dozens of states. One recent hurricane (Katrina?) caused massive rainfall all the way up into Ohio and surrounding area.

Hopefully Apple has done due diligence and properly shored up the property’s grades and has underground communications in place, and in multiple directions.

But they still need power. Are they adding any solar panels to assist with that?

WillM

Arial photography? We can take pictures with fonts now?

That was a good one!

ibuck

Add tornado as a risk in Maiden:

The Weather Channel reported an EF2 tornado in Vale, NC on Wednesday. Vale is a 16.7 mile circuitous drive from Maiden, but much closer as the crow flies.

Methinks putting all one’s eggs in one basket is a risky proposition for Apple in Maiden.

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