Apple Hits The Oregon Trail To Seek Out Greater Data Center Capacity, Likely Won’t Die Of Dysentery

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Apple has reportedly begun work on a huge new data center facility in Prineville, Oregon, according to local reports from the Oregonian (as spotted this morning by Wired). The new facility will be built on a 160 acre plot of land Apple purchased from the local county for $5.6 million in February, and the first phase of construction will reportedly cost $68 million, with the eventual completed facility spanning two 338,000 square-foot buildings and probably costing a lot more to complete.

The appeal of Oregon’s tax incentives and relatively affordable energy grid have drawn the attention of more than just Apple. Google, Adobe, Amazon and Facebook have all constructed or are constructing data centers in Oregon communities. Facebook’s data facility is actually located right across the road from Apple’s planned facility, in fact. Previously, Apple built data centers in North Carolina, another state known for its tax breaks and in Reno, once again lured by around $89 million in tax incentives.

iCloud is the commonly cited reasoning behind the construction of these various facilities, and there’s no question that that’s a growing need. Apple revealed back in July that it now has over 150 million iCloud users, having added 25 million of those between April and July. It’s very possible we’ll hear that number has grown again by a considerable factor when Apple once again details its quarterly earning next week. That many users running iCloud backups of their iOS devices, storing photos via Photo Stream and accessing iTunes music and video libraries in the cloud definitely comes with significant server demands.

Apple has been vocal in the past about its desire to make the cloud the new central focus of its overall efforts. “We are going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud,” Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs said at the 2011 Worldwide Developer Conference. To do so reliably and consistently requires a massive data storage and server infrastructure, and Apple’s clearly not wasting any time getting that piece in place.

Even beyond iCloud, there are other areas where Apple might need additional data center facilities in the future. Some evidence suggests it could debut an all-streaming radio service similar to Pandora, for instance, and Apple’s shouldering a lot more responsibility for iOS Maps now that it’s taken Google out of the equation. It also seems to be intent on beefing up Siri and that service’s capabilities, which in turn will lead to higher data demands on a feature where outages are often high profile.

Increasingly, Apple’s business is the cloud, and that’s an area where it has faced challenges in the past. Luckily, it looks like the company is eager to make sure that a shortage of physical resources won’t cause it any more headaches in the long term.