Apple today offered a glimpse of its new data center as it announced its much-anticipated iCloud cloud computing service, which will allow iTunes users to store music, photos and documents in Apple's data centers. The free iCloud service will launch this fall, and will synch digital content across all users devices, including iPhones, iPads, Macs and PCs.
Apple is offering each iCloud user 5 gigabytes of storage for email and documents, plus additional storage space for photos and music. That potentially enormous storage offer explains the size of Apple's new data center in North Carolina, which at 500,000 square feet is among the largest data centers in the country.
"We're Serious About This"
Apple CEO Steve Jobs described iCloud as a game-changer for consumer cloud computing, featuring free software developed to solve the challenges of storing and managing digital content in a world of proliferating devices.
"We're going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who unveiled the iCloud at Apple's developer conference in San Francisco. "Some people think the cloud is just a big disk in the sky. We think it's way more than that.
"If you don't think we're serious about this, you're wrong," Jobs continued, as he displayed several images of the massive North Carolina iDataCenter, including the first images of the inside of the facility. The photos revealed some aspects of Apple's data center design, which features a slab floor and a cooling system in which cold air enters the equipment area from overhead. Apple is using containment systems to separate the cold supply air for the servers from the exhaust heat, a strategy which dramatically improves the efficiency of data center cooling systems.
Apple appears to be enclosing the cold aisle in most configurations, although one of the images suggests Apple is also using hot-aisle containment for some of its equipment.
One image displayed by Jobs showed large data warehousing devices from Teradata, which in its recent versions leverage solid state disks to accelerate data transfer. In an analysis of the images, Stephen Foskett wrote that Apple also appears to be using HP ProLiant servers and several types of storage equipment from NetApp.
Apple said its is "ready to ramp iCloud in its three data centers." Apple also has existing data centers in Newark, Calif. and on its Cupertino headquarters campus. In April, Apple signed a seven-year lease for 2.28 megawatts of critical power load in a new data center being built in Santa Clara, Calif. by DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT), a leading developer of wholesale data center space. The Santa Clara facility would provide Apple with additional capacity on the West Coast.
The facility is " as eco-friendly as you can make a modern data center," said Jobs, suggesting Apple is mindful of recent criticism from Greenpeace. The environmental group recently gave Apple the lowest rating in an evaluation of the energy use of major data center operators, saying its location in Maiden, North Carolina featured some of the "dirtiest generation mixes in the U.S" with its combination of coal and nuclear power.
Apple said it has already invested more than $500 million in the iDataCenter, about halfway toward its commiment to North Carolina officials that the company would invest at least $1 billion over nine years. "It's a large place and it's full of expensive stuff," said jobs. "We're pretty proud of it."
Here's another look at the inside of the Apple data center: