Apple Inc. has secretly built a massive server farm in Maiden, North Carolina that should come online any day now, if it hasn’t already. The facility is five times larger than Apple’s existing data center in Newark, Calif., writes David Zeiler in the Money Morning e-newsletter.
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has been typically cagey about the purpose of this data center, Zeiler writes, which ultimately could cost as much as $1 billion. Much of Apple’s existing business is based on content delivery, but building a half-million-square-foot facility — among the largest in the world — hints at more grandiose plans, including a major venture into cloud computing.
Yes, it’s the next big thing in computing. Wikipaedia defines cloud computing this way: “It is Internet-based computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand, as with the electricity grid. Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture and utility computing. Details are abstracted from consumers, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure “in the cloud” that supports them.
“Cloud computing describes a new supplement, consumption, and delivery model for IT services based on the Internet, and it typically involves over-the-Internet provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources.”
The consensus of analysts is that the new server farm is needed to deliver music, applications (apps) and video from the iTunes Store. But if the added capacity will let Apple expand its cloud-based initiatives, using the existing MobileMe online service as a starting point.
“Owners of Macs, iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads already can sync such data as calendars and contacts between all their Apple devices, Zeiler writes. But what if Apple decided to adapt its iWork suite of productivity software to the web à la Google Apps?
“Given Apple’s existing dependence on content distribution, it likely has multiple purposes in mind for the Maiden facility.”