Is Apple making a push for cloud computing with its new “big-ass” data center?

Tue, Aug 18, 2009


Earlier this week, we reported that Apple recently hired a former eBay Data Center executive to head up operations at its planned 500,00 square foot data center in Maiden, North Carolina. But the extremely large space Apple has in the works begs the question – what exactly is Apple planning to do with such a massive data center?

To help shed some light on the question, Cult of Mac scored an interview with Data Center Knowledge editor Rich Miller.

CoM: First, any idea why Apple is building this new data center?

Miller: Apple has said very little about the North Carolina facility, beyond the fact that it will serve as the company’s East coast data hub. Apple also has a West coast data center facility in Newark, Calif. Local officials I’ve spoken with say they believe the space is primarily to support Mobile Me and digital content for the iTunes store. The most interesting question is whether Apple needs a much larger facility to support growth in its existing services, or is scaling up capacity for future offerings.

CoM: Could Apple be building it for cloud computing apps — cloud versions of its iLife apps for example?

Miller: One of the leading theories about the size of the NC project is that Apple is planning future cloud computing services that will require lots of data center storage. Cloud computing is a hot trend, and I’d be surprised if Apple isn’t thinking hard – and thinking differently – about cloud computing. Many cloud enthusiasts say that cloud computing will eliminate the need for data centers. In reality, the only thing will change is the owner of the building. All the applications and data that are moving into the cloud will live on servers in brick-and-mortar data centers. The companies that are building the biggest data centers tend to also have the biggest cloud ambitions.

CoM: How big is Apple’s new North Carolina data center — big, small, medium?

Miller: The early site plans indicate Apple is planning about 500,000 square feet of data center space in a single building. That would place it among the largest data centers in the world. For comparison purposes, Apple’s existing data center in Newark, Calif. is a little more than 100,000 square feet. Most new stand-alone enterprise data centers are in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 square feet. So this would qualify as a big-ass data center.

You can check out the full interview over here.


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