The forecast for Iowa is cloudy, with a chance of data centers.
The cloud cluster in Iowa is big and getting bigger, with Facebook announcing today that it will build two more data centers at its campus in Altoona, which will now feature 10 buildings and 4.1 million square feet of space.
Facebook continues a massive global expansion of its infrastructure. Over the past year, it has announced new data centers in Illinois and Tennessee, as well as major expansions of existing campuses in Utah, Georgia and Prineville, Oregon, where the company is rolling out a multi-story data center design featuring two floors of server rooms to boost capacity.
The Altoona expansion is also good news for the construction industry in central Iowa, where cloud projects have become a steady source of work. “Our data center project has already contributed over 8 million construction work hours to the Iowa economy and we are so excited that this work is continuing,” Facebook said in its announcement.
As Internet titans seek to distribute large files to support videos, gaming and virtual reality, the center of the country is proving to be the ideal place to add data center capacity. Nowhere has benefited from this trend more than Iowa, which is home to huge cloud campuses for Google, Facebook, and Microsoft and the future home of a similar project for Apple.
Placing data centers in the center of the country makes it easier to distribute content to major markets like Chicago and Dallas, reducing lag and buffering for streaming media like Netflix movies or Facebook videos. It also allows for data to move quickly to either coast, which can be important in application development.
This trend has also spurred data center construction in places like Columbus, Ohio and Omaha, Nebraska. But cloud builders love Iowa, as seen in a flurry of construction projects.
- Google kicked off the Iowa data center boom with its 2007 announcement of a new facility in Council Bluffs, which over the last decade has grown into the company’s largest cloud campus, reflecting an investment of more than $2.5 billion in phased expansions.
- Microsoft has built a major cloud cluster in West Des Moines, Iowa, where it is developing three large data center campuses. The company has recently bought land for two additional campuses, which could bring another $2 billion in investment atop the estimated $3 billion to $5 billion that Microsoft has spent on its Iowa infrastructure.
- As Facebook noted this morning, its Altoona campus is now planned to span 10 buildings and 4.1 million square feet, which likely makes it the company’s second-largest campus behind Princeville, Oregon (11 buildings, 4.6 million SF).
- Apple plans to purchase 2,000 acres of land in Waukee for a cloud campus to support its iTunes and iCloud services. The first phase of the project will include two data center facilities that are expected to run entirely on renewable energy. The project has been postponed several times since its announcement in 2017, and Apple ‘s most recent timeline doesn’t anticipate delivery until 2027.
Cloud campuses are where these companies concentrate massive amounts of computing power in multiple data center facilities. These data center hubs enable companies to rapidly add cloud capacity and electric power, creating economies of scale as more workloads migrate into these massive server farms.
Iowa has benefited from a confluence of factors that make it attractive to data centers, including its location, which provides low latency to deliver online services to the center of the country. The state has relatively low costs for land and utility power, and lower exposure to natural disasters than many areas of the nation, with low risk from hurricanes and earthquakes. Data center projects also benefit from incentive programs passed by the Iowa legislature.