Apple converting sapphire factory to data center manufacturing facility
Tue 10 Jan 2017
Apple has filed a proposal with the City of Mesa, Arizona to convert an existing property to a factory for the manufacture of data center equipment.
According to a document filed by the city for Apple, “Apple Inc. has repurposed the site as a global data command center that will conduct high-tech manufacturing of finished data center cabinets for other data centers.”
The facility was purchased by Apple several years ago as a sapphire glass production plant, but was left empty when the project was abandoned. The 1.3 million square-foot facility is currently under renovation, both as a production and manufacturing facility and as a data center.
While Apple already has the proper zoning authority for production of consumer electronics in the facility, it has applied to the Foreign-Trades Zones Board for duty exemption for parts that would be used in the manufacture of finished server assembly cabinets.
The duty rate for the materials in question can range from 0 to 8.6% of the total value.
Currently, servers used in Apple data centers, like the ones in Oregon and North Carolina, are built and tested on-site. Centralizing the manufacture of servers in the Mesa facility will allow the company to create products for its own data centers which can then be shipped domestically.
There is no word as yet whether the equipment will be available to overseas data centers or to the public.
In 2014, Apple announced its intention to turn the facility into a next-generation data center. In addition to storing iCloud backup files and iTunes media, the Mesa ‘global command center’ would also provide oversight for other remote and co-located Apple data centers. Apple reportedly budgeted $2 billion USD for the project, and was in talks to move parts of its executive team to the Mesa location when construction of the data center is finished. Apple began hiring operations professionals for the Mesa site in October 2016.
Workers in the building were evacuated in 2015, when the solar panels on the roof caught fire. The panels, which were part of an agreement between Apple and Mesa, were meant to provide power to 14,000 homes and businesses in the area.