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Tuesday, November 30, 2010, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Apple Global Data Center Director Olivier Sanche dies at 41

Olivier Sanche, the head of Apple's global data center operations, died of a heart attack on Thanksgiving; he was 41.

The loss comes as a shock not only to Apple, but to the data center industry in general, as Sanche was a pioneer in data center efficiency and a leader in thinking differently about the planning and construction of data centers in general.

Sanche joined Apple in August of last year, when he began overseeing preparations for the company's $1 billion new North Carolina data center. He has previously worked for eBay, where he managed the development and construction of that company's Topaz center in Utah, which was recently awarded a LEED Gold certification for its environmentally sustainable design.

Sanche was a passionate advocate of green, efficient, sustainable data center design, a subject involving not just total energy consumption but also water consumption, eWaste, and other environmental concerns. His concern for the environment fit into Apple's decisive but rarely advertised push to achieve environmentally sustainable balance in its product design, construction, transportation, packaging and general operations, as part of a codified standard of conduct that also involves the labor practices, occupational health and safety policy and business ethics of both the company and its upstream suppliers.

An associate noted that Sanche "loved being at Apple as he could do things he could get done no where else. He had vision, passion, and drive to do the right thing, especially for the environment. One of the sadder parts is Olivier couldn’t talk about what he was doing at Apple, but we had many other data center things we could talk about without touching on any Apple topics."

Apple has yet to publicly reveal how it will be using the massive new data center Sanche helped build, but is expected to do so soon. In July, Apple's chief financial officer Peter Openheimer responded to questions about the data center by saying, simply, "North Carolina is on schedule. Everything is going fine. We expect to complete it by the end of the calendar year, and begin to use it."

A month ago, the center was reported to be "fully operational" and ready to begin operations "any day now."