Cloud in the Desert: AWS Launches in Bahrain, Azure Builds in Phoenix

Weather may be hot in Phoenix and Bahrain, but so is the cloud business opportunity.

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

August 1, 2019

2 Min Read
The Sonoran Desert
The Sonoran DesertJohn Moore/Getty Images

They’ve been building in Scandinavia, where their data centers can be powered with the region’s plentiful low-cost and relatively clean energy and cooling them efficiently using its cold outside air. Now the largest cloud platforms are also building their hyperscale infrastructure in deserts, where weather may be hot but so is business opportunity.

Amazon Web Services this week announced the launch of data centers in Bahrain, hosting its first cloud availability region in the Middle East. Microsoft Azure, AWS’s biggest rival, announced the launch of its first two Middle Eastern regions, in the United Arab Emirates, just last month. This week, Microsoft also announced plans to build a massive new Azure availability region in Goodyear, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix.

AWS rattled off a long list of existing customers in the Middle East and North Africa, including startups, large enterprises, and the public sector. The company claims it has “tens of thousands” of customers and partners in the Middle East. Using the new Amazon data centers in Bahrain, they can all now presumably improve performance and lower costs.

AWS first revealed the Bahrain data center plans in 2017.

Microsoft’s plans to build Azure data centers in the Phoenix market were reported by local press earlier this year. According to the reports, the company bought one sprawling site in Goodyear in 2018 and another one in 2019. In its announcement this week, Microsoft said that in addition to Goodyear, the future availability region will also include data centers in nearby El Mirage. It will be its fifth region in the US.

Related:Cloud Giants’ 2019 Data Center Investment a Mixed Bag for Providers

Microsoft also announced a deal with the Arizona-based photovoltaic manufacturer First Solar on a 150MW solar project Sun Streams 2 in the surrounding Maricopa County, whose output will match the cloud data centers’ energy consumption.

The announcement doesn’t specify whether the solar project will power the facilities directly or generate renewable energy credits to match their regular grid energy consumption.

Appropriate for an announcement of a massive data center construction project in a desert, Microsoft pledged to mitigate the future facilities’ impact on the region’s already tight water supply. The buildings will use outside air for cooling when its temperature is below 85F and water-efficient evaporative cooling when it’s hotter, but the company said it’s also investing in broader regional water conservation efforts.

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