It looks like Microsoft will buy its Chicago data center facility from the developers. Crain's is reporting that Microsoft will pay $185 million to acquire the property from Ascent Corp and the Koman Group. The company will say only that it "doesn't comment on rumors or speculation."
The massive Chicago facility is the cornerstone of Microsoft's plans to build an enormous cloud computing infrastructure with servers housed in 40-foot shipping containers. The company plans to house up to 400,000 servers in the enormous data center to power its Live suite of online services.
The $500 million facility was nearing completion late last year when Microsoft slowed construction as it scaled back its capital investment in its data center network, citing the need to cut costs in the face of the global economic slowdown. Microsoft later said it would bring the Chicago facility into production "as customer demand warrants."
Microsoft leased the property in Northlake, Ill. in November 2007. Crain's reports that the lease included an option to buy, and says Microsoft has opted to exercise that option. Crain's says Koman and Ascent recently began trying to sell the property, presumably to an investor that would want to keep its well-heeled tenant in place for the long run.
Microsoft apparently isn't interested in taking any chances, since it plans to invest $500 million on the site improvements and equipment.
TechHermit writes he's been hearing "persistent rumors that Microsoft is once again speeding up their deployments into the facility to meet growing consumer demand." We inquired about activity at the Northlake site, but Microsoft says it has no development updates at this time.