Report: Apple May Build Near Facebook in Oregon

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Some of the servers inside Apple's data center in North Carolina. The company is rumored to be considering another large data center in Oregon.

Apple is considering whether to build a new data center adjacent to the Facebook facility in Prineville, Oregon, according to local media. The Oregonian says Apple is the mystery company using the codename “Maverick” that has been evaluating Prineville as a location for a major data center.

The biggest challenge: procuring enough electrical power to support the data center, which could require as much as 31 megawatts of critical load. That capacity would not be available until mid-2013, when a nearby substation could be upgraded to provide additional power.

Apple currently operates a large data center in Maiden, North Carolina. The 500,000 square foot iDataCenter is providing suport for Apple’s new iCloud service, which stores and synchronizes music, photos and data across multiple devices.

Backup Site Needed

As we’ve noted several times previously, it’s likely that Apple will need at least one other large data center complex to provide backup capabilities for the facility in North Carolina. Most major Internet companies have major hubs on both coasts, which helps with content delivery and also provides the ability to keep copies of critical data “out of region” so that a single natural disaster wouldn’t threaten the survival of the data.

There have been rumors for months that major players were scouting sites in Prineville. Facebook’s facility had attracted interest from other companies seeking to leverage the town’s ideal environment for using fresh air to cool servers.  “It’s an ideal location for evaporative cooling,” said Jay Park, Facebook’s Director of Datacenter Engineering.  The temperature in Prineville has not exceeded 105 degrees in the last 50 years, he noted.

The central Oregon climate allows data centers to take advantage of  “free cooling,” the practice of using cool outside temperatures to support the cooling systems. This approach allows data centers to use outside air to either cool water or provide direct air cooling for servers. Either approach allows companies to reduce their use of refrigeration systems, which use a large amount of energy.

The Data Center Clustering Effect

Oregon is benefitting from an effect known as example of data center clustering, in which a regional market becomes an aggregation point for many mission-critical facilities. This trend has usually been focused on major Internet markets (northern Virginia, Silicon Valley) but is now providing opportunities for rural markets like Quincy, Washington and western North Carolina amid shifting criteria for data center site location.

Prineville is one of several hot spots for potential data center development in the state. The Portland suburb of Hillsboro has recently landed new projects for Fortune Data Centers and NetApp, while the Port of Morrow/Umatilla area is home to a new data center for Amazon and is reported to be under consideration for a second facility to house servers for Rackspace.

More data centers would be a boost to the economy in Prineville. The Facebook construction project had an average of 243 workers per day on the site, which required about 228 “man years” of labor to complete.  A total of 88 subcontractors worked on the site, including 41 companies from the immediate area of Bend, Prineville and Redmond. Facebook has hired 35 full-time employees to staff the facility, who earn at least 150 percent of the median salary in the region.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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