Facebook Announces Iowa Data Center Expansion

Nearly a year to the day after confirming its first Altoona, Iowa data center, Facebook announced plans to double its service footprint in the Midwest. Now that the social media giant is almost through putting the finishing touches on the first 476,000 square foot structure, it will begin construction of the second facility on the Iowa data center campus.

Facebook’s First Iowa Data Center
Facebook confirmed plans for its first Iowa data center on April 23, 2013, noting at the time that it would be completed this year, reported PC Magazine contributor Angela Moscaritolo. Breaking ground on the new Altoona facility would bring the company’s U.S. data center count to three, including its Prineville, Oregon data center and its Forest City, North Carolina data center.

At the time, Facebook announced that it would invest at least $299.5 million in the first phase of the project, but the Iowa data center campus would allow for future growth.

“During the first phase, Facebook plans to build a 476,000 square foot data center, but the 194-acre Altoona site could accommodate up to two additional data centers that would be constructed in future phases of the project,” Moscaritolo wrote.

Altoona Data Center Campus Expansion
The time has come to begin those future phases and Sci-Tech Today noted this project will represent the second phase of the initiative, which will cost an estimated $1 billion total for all three planned structures. Each constructed data center building carries a $300 million price tag, however, Facebook is benefiting from certain incentives.

To date, the project has taken advantage of approximately $18 million in data center tax incentives. In addition, Altoona city officials have stated that they will not collect property taxes on the Iowa data center campus for 20 years.

Currently, Facebook is working to complete its first Iowa data center at the Altoona site. The social media giant will reportedly break ground on the second building once the local city council approves the project. The plans are set to go before the governing body on May 5.

The company noted that the expansion will basically double the size of its current Iowa data center service footprint, stating that the second building will be roughly the same size as the first. The new facility may also have other similarities to its predecessor, which leveraged a “modular and lean construction” approach, as well as a focus on data center sustainability. Once completed, the first Iowa data center will be partially powered by wind energy, an environmental tactic that may be applied to the second facility as well.

“Facebook has chosen a location where it has great potential to power its newest data center with the wind energy that is booming there,” said Gary Cook, Greenpeace International senior IT analyst.

Why Iowa?
With such a prominent reputation in the technology industry, thanks in part to its previous data center strategies and establishment of the Open Compute Project, some may be wondering why Facebook chose Iowa as an attractive data center location. In addition to the data center tax incentives offered in the state, the company also benefits from a discounted water rate, which is applicable for organizations utilizing more than 9 million gallons of water each month.

The state also boasts an accessible, reliable fiber optic cable infrastructure and cost efficient power resources. Additionally, the region has a large educated workforce which Facebook has already begun tapping for its first facility.

These advantageous resources have not gone unnoticed by other data center operators. Facebook is in good – and competitive – company with its Iowa data center projects. Microsoft also recently announced expansion plans in the state, which will include the construction of a $1.1 billion structure in West Des Moines, according to VentureBeat. Google also currently operates an Iowa data center in Council Bluffs, further extending the reach of the increasing technological hub present in the state.

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