Apple’s new data center in North Carolina is amongst the biggest being built in the world right now.  At over 500,000 square feet it is bigger than both Microsoft and Google’s latest data centers and five times its current data center in Newark California (109,000 sq. ft).

The obvious question is: What will Apple do with this new space?  Cult of Mac spent a few moments with a data center guru to get some answers. 

It seems Apple could follow a couple of different courses:


  • Apple currently hosts most of their users’ MobileMe data.  If MobileMe should grow in scope (bigger email boxes, more pictures and videos) it is going to need more space = bigger data center.
  • Most of Apple’s web and media content isn’t hosted by them.  It is hosted by 3rd parties like Akamai and 7digital.  Apple could be trying to bring in some of this capability to reduce costs and gain flexibility
  • Apple could be working on new Cloud tools that require not just bandwidth but also some databases and CPU cycles.  We’ve heard that Apple is working on their own version of Google’s Grand Central to bring to its iPods, iPhones tablets and other mediums via iChat.
  • We’ve also heard that Apple is experimenting with moving iTunes libraries into the cloud as part of MobileMe.  On one hand having everyone’s music collection in the cloud would be incredibly complex.  However, the most popular iTunes songs are on millions of different iTunes libraries. If Apple’s system is capable of recognizing duplicates, it could save petabytes of space by indexing the music and pointing everyone’s reference to one copy.  In fact, Apple already stores most of the world’s available music and videos in its iTunes library.  Making symbolic links to purchased music would be easy.  Apple also does a similar thing with iPhone apps.  If you lose your iPhone, you can just redownload your whole application library.  Fortunately, they control the rights to the iPhone apps.  Media companies might not be so willing to let people redownload their music/videos.  Also, users might not like to give Apple all of their music.


Some fun facts:

• Apple’s existing Newark, CA., Data Center is around 109,000 square feet–the new one is over 500,000. That represents either a ridiculously big scaling-up of business or a whole new thing
• 500,000 square feet is among the largest centers being built in the world on a single site. Microsoft’s new one in Chicago is around 400,000, in comparison
• "The companies that are building the biggest data centers tend to also have the biggest cloud ambitions"
• The choice of site location depends on cheap electricity and/or fast broadband pipes to the World. Rural North Carolina was chosen probably more for tax breaks and low-cost running rather than fast connectivity

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