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Microsoft Building Out Its Huge Iowa Data Center

Microsoft Building Out Its Huge Iowa Data Center
By Barry Levine

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The new Microsoft data center in Iowa will feature a modular design that allows for the rapid addition of capacity as needed. Servers at Microsoft's new data center will be housed in metal containers and will connect to a central channel of power and networking, comparable to the design at the company's Northlake, Chicago facility.
 


In addition to wind farms, Iowa big new cash crop is the data center. In the most recent harvest, Microsoft has announced it is spending $677 million to build out its data center in that state.

The news was announced Friday by Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer. This is the third expansion of that facility, and is expected to result in the creation of 29 new jobs, plus another 200 construction jobs.

Called Project Mountain during the process, the build-out was part of a cooperative effort by the company, the Greater Des Moines Partnership, the City of West Des Moines and Iowa. The project will receive as much as $20 million in tax credits from the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board, notably a sales and use tax refund during construction and an investment tax credit of $5 million.

200+ Online Services

Microsoft's cloud presence is growing by leaps and bounds, as it counters competitive moves by Google, Amazon, Oracle, Apple and others. The company currently has more than 200 online-based services that support a billion customers worldwide, including MSN, Office 365, Skype, Xbox Live, Bing, Outlook.com and Windows Azure.

As is becoming the fashion with many data centers, Microsoft is emphasizing its green credentials. For this facility, it will offset the carbon emissions by buying an equal amount of renewable energy credits. Site work is expected to start this summer, with construction beginning later this year and running until the end of 2015.

The new facility will feature a modular design that allows for the rapid addition of capacity as needed. Servers will be housed in metal containers and will connect to a central channel of power and networking, comparable to the design at the company's Northlake, Chicago facility.

In addition to scaling capacity, this design is intended to reduce the overall carbon footprint, such as leveraging natural cooling instead of power-hungry air conditioning.

Facebook, Google

In April, Facebook announced that its third data center in the U.S. would be located in Altoona, Iowa. That facility is built using the Open Compute Project service specs and an outdoor air-cooling system, and Facebook said that, when completed, it will be among the most energy efficient facilities around.

Although press reports initially pegged the cost of the new Facebook center at $1 billion, the company has since said that its first phase is priced at $300 million, and will result in a 476,000 square-foot facility, including both offices and floor space. The Iowa center is expected to have excess capacity to support the company's data centers in Oregon, North Carolina and Sweden. In its legal filings, the company had said it expected to spend as much as $1.8 billion in capital expenditures this year for the facility.

Additionally, Google is undertaking a $400 million expansion of its data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which brings its total investment in that data center to about $1.5 billion.
 

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