Apple Converting Arizona Plant Into $2 Billion Data Center

Apple will spend $2 billion to repurpose a failed Arizona sapphire glass plant as a data center and command hub for global networks.

Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading

February 3, 2015

3 Min Read
(Image: Apple)

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Apple is slated to spend $2 billion in repurposing an old sapphire glass plant to create a data and command center located in Mesa, Ariz. In addition, the new facility will serve as a hub for Apple's data activity worldwide and keep jobs in the area.

The project involves converting a plant formerly occupied by GT Advanced Technologies (GT), the company Apple hired to manufacture sapphire screens. Apple acquired the plant in November 2013 and leased it to GT for production, a move that was expected to create management jobs and result in scratch-resistant screens for Apple products.

In October 2014, less than one year later, GT filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it was unable "to produce screens of usable quality," reports Bloomberg. The company could not fulfill the terms of an agreement it previously made with Apple.

GT has since stated that it was victimized by "a classic bait-and-switch strategy" from the tech giant, which presented the smaller company with "an onerous and massively one-sided deal," back when their partnership sparked in fall of 2013, wrote GT COO Daniel Squiller, according to CNBC

[More from Apple: iPad Sales Lag While iPhone, Mac Soar.]

Apple will use the 1.3 million-sq.-ft. facility to house its expanding cloud and data management businesses, which have become essential to its desktop and mobile platforms. The converted plant will serve as a data center and command center for managing Apple's other data centers and networks that handle operations for iTunes, Siri, iCloud, and other services.

The $2 billion investment, one of the largest in Apple's history, is expected to stretch over 10 years with a 30-year commitment from Apple to maintain the plant, Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, emailed Reuters.

Apple's project is not only a boon to its data-management business, but to the local Mesa economy. The new data center is expected to employ 150 full-time Apple employees and to create around 300-500 construction and trade jobs. It's welcome news, given that GT announced plans to lay off 650 employees as it halted production last October.

"This expansion will bring a significant economic investment, and propel Arizona's position as one of the best states in the nation in which to do business," said Ducey in a statement.

Like its other data centers, Apple's new Arizona facility will exclusively run on renewable energy, with most power coming from a local solar farm, according to CNET. Apple also intends to build and finance solar projects that will produce 70 megawatts of clean energy and will power more than 14,500 Arizona homes.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Sheridan

Staff Editor, Dark Reading

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial services. Sheridan earned her BA in English at Villanova University. You can follow her on Twitter @kellymsheridan.

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