Report: Apple Rethinking Data Center Strategy

Company looks to use more commodity hardware, build own long-haul network to interconnect data centers

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

June 8, 2015

2 Min Read
Report: Apple Rethinking Data Center Strategy
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

To improve performance of services like its music streaming offering announced this week, Apple is changing its approach to data center infrastructure. The company is building its own long-haul network to transport traffic between its US data centers and increasing its use of customized commodity hardware as opposed to off-the-shelf IT products, Bloomberg reported citing anonymous sources.

Web-services giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft have been known to optimize data center infrastructure by designing their own hardware and having it produced by original design manufacturers, such as Taiwanese companies Quanta and Foxconn, as well as “incumbent” suppliers like Dell and HP. Apple has kept its approach to building out infrastructure to support its online services under wraps, but the report suggests it has been using more traditional off-the-shelf hardware.

Earlier this year Apple officially joined the Open Compute Project, the open source hardware and data center design community spearheaded by Facebook. The company had reportedly been involved with OCP for a long time, but joined officially only in March.

One of the pieces of hardware Apple is looking to use in its future data centers, according to Bloomberg’s sources, is a network switch by Quanta running a Linux-based operating system by Cumulus Networks, a startup founded to enable growth of the commodity network hardware ecosystem by providing stand-alone software that can run on any switch that’s not a proprietary box incumbents like Cisco, Juniper, and HP have traditionally sold.

Owning the network that connects its data centers will give Apple more control over the quality of services it delivers to its customers than it has now, using network-carrier services.

The company owns four data center campuses in the US (in California, Nevada, Oregon, and North Carolina) and leases multiple facilities. Earlier this year it announced plans to build data centers in Ireland and Denmark in a project expected to cost about $1.9 billion.

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