Facebook To Build A $1 Billion Data Center In Iowa

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Facebook is planning to build a $1 billion data center project in Altoona, Iowa, that will cover 1.4 million square feet and serve as what the company says will be “the most advanced data center in the world.” [Update 4/23: Facebook has now officially announced the new Iowa data center. Facebook says "We plan to break ground this summer and expect to begin serving user traffic in 2014."]

The Des Moines Register, quoting sources in the state legislature, said the data center, code-named “Catapult,” will be built in two $500 million phases. When completed the total cost of the data center is expected to hit $1.5 billion. As part of the deal, Facebook is also seeking wind energy production tax credits that would require legislative action.

The Des Moines Register further reports that “the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board and Altoona’s City Council are expected to consider incentives for the project on Tuesday. State leaders have repeatedly declined to comment about the project. Facebook also has declined to comment.”

Iowa has been competing fiercely for it with Nebraska over the past several months.

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The Register reports that the Facebook facility will be located in what is being called a “data center corridor,” due to its access to an extensive interstate fiber-optic cable system that is already installed within the city and running along Interstate Highway 80. It is in proximity to adequate power and water utilities. Land is affordable and has low natural-disaster risks. It is accessible to interstate highways.

Facebook has emerged as a leader for how data centers are developed. Like a lot of Internet-scale companies, Facebook developed its own methods for building out data centers and the servers that go in these massive digital factories. It’s embodied in the Open Compute Project, which Facebook has been driving to get more innovation and efficiencies in data center build outs. This involves everything from heating and cooling to the way racks are designed to hold the server blades. They even had a data center hacking session at its last OpenCompute event.

Data centers are also becoming symbolic of the social and political ramifications that come with building out this new form of programmable infrastructure. These data centers are tangible, physical representations of the Internet and the way we use data. And even though they employ relatively few people, their presence provides regions, like the one in Iowa, with ways to transform their economies beyond their farming and industrial roots.

Facebook currently has data centers in Oregon and North Carolina. Facebook could not be reached for comment.