Bird’s-eye view of Oregon’s upcoming iCloud

After taking up to the skies early-August to grab high-quality aerial photos of Apple’s 100-acre solar farm and a mysterious tactical data center – both located in Maiden, North Carolina – Wired now has dispatched its “iSpy Plane” in order to take a closer look at Apple’s enormous data center site in the middle of Oregonian high desert. The facility is located right in the neighborhood of another insanely massive data center run by the social networking giant Facebook.

In fact, Facebook already operates twin data centers in the area whereas Apple less than two months ago started construction on the first of two 338,000 square-foot buildings planned for the site. Though construction just got started, a mysterious “tactical data center” is already up and running…

Apple purchased an 160-acre parcel in Prineville from Crook County for $5.6 million back in February. With office space, loading docks and parking lots, the facility is expected to cover about 107 acres.

As the top photograph clearly shows, Apple’s site is a stone’s throw from Facebook’s twin data centers.

Wired notes that the Prineville facility will be fully powered by alternative energy.

Here’s a closer look at the site.

Arguably the most interesting structure is this mysterious 20,000-square foot building depicted below. Apple calls it a “tactical data center” and its use is anyone’s guess.

The building is guarded by an eight-foot chain-link fence, and the entrance has multiple sets of security doors. The company is also building another tactical data center at the Maiden site that will be t-boned to the existing iCloud buildings.

Apple’s Cook told Bloomberg Bussinessweek that his company is building three data centers.

We’re building three data centers – adding to the one we have in Maiden [N.C.] and establishing new sites in Oregon and in Nevada.

Also, “we’re building a campus in Austin for people in Texas”, Cook said.

Now, the Reno site in Nevada, an estimated $1 billion investment, is code-named “Project Jonathan” and will support the iTunes Store, App Store and iCloud services.

Apple is promising to create “hundreds of construction jobs over the next year”, in addition to permanent jobs at the data center adding to its existing total of nearly 400 employees in the state.

In addition to the fully functional iCloud facility in Maiden, North Carolina, Apple also has another digital hive in northern California and is planning a huge data center complex in Hong Kong.

These facilities could not come online soon enough.

As some of the almost 200 million iCloud customers could easily attest to, outages of key iCloud services like FaceTime, iMessage and iCloud Mail are becoming a norm rather than an exception.

That’s probably an indication that iCloud servers – as massively powerful as they might be – cannot keep up with Apple’s explosive growth (we’re looking at you, Eddy Cue!)

Another reason why Apple is now looking to build super data centers the world over: a rumored television set, an elusive gizmo thought to sport tight iCloud integration for on-demand, high-def streaming of premium entertainment content.

In fact, you can stream content now via the third-gen Apple TV that supports 1080p and iTunes has been carrying 1080p movies for some time.

Nevertheless, a high-profile television set by Apple coupled with a rumored iTunes TV service in theory might strain iCloud servers too much. That said, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Apple is sparing no expense when it comes to bolstering its cloud infrastructure.