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Sunday, October 24, 2010, 09:45 pm PT (12:45 am ET)

Apple's North Carolina data center to open "any day now"

A new report says local officials expect Apple's $1 billion data center in North Carolina to begin operations "any day now," while aerial footage of the site shows continued construction, supporting rumors that Apple may double the size of the server farm.

According to a Data Center Knowledge report published Sunday, the data center is "fully operational," with Apple beginning to "ramp up production" at the server farm. The Cupertino, Calif., company could be planning to build a second facility on the site, the report notes.

Rumors of a planned expansion to the data center by Apple picked up steam last week when John Paczkowksi of Digital Daily, citing anonymous sources, reported that Apple was considering doubling the 500,000 square-foot space. The North Carolina data center is already five times larger than the company's current data center in Newark, California.

Apple first announced the Maiden, NC location for the data center in July 2009, although few details of the project have been released. The company has also begun hiring workers for the data center and is expected to create at least 50 Apple-badged employees and as many as 250 ancillary positions.

In July, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer told analysts during an earnings call that the North Carolina data center remained on schedule. "We expect to complete it by the end of the calendar year, and begin to use it," said Oppenheimer.

Though the exact purpose of the massive server farm remains unknown, analysts speculate that it will play a central role in Apple's move toward cloud computing and streaming media. Apple's new $99 Apple TV, with just 8GB of on-board storage, is built for streaming. Additionally, the recently released MacBook Air, which Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs called the "future" of the entire MacBook line, is equipped with only flash memory. With the entry-level 11.6-inch model sporting just 64GB of flash storage, the ultra-thin notebook line would greatly benefit from cloud-based initiatives.

Local realtor Bill Wagenseller added to the speculation of a second facility by posting a YouTube video containing aerial footage of the nearly operational data center. In the video, a large-scale construction project is seen underway directly behind the data center, although it is unclear whether the work is for the rumored expansion.



"Though there has been no official announcement, I discovered that site work is being performed and it clearly appears that there may be some truth to the speculation," Wagenseller wrote in the video's description. In February, Wagenseller posted footage of the server farm while under construction.