Failed sapphire plant to become global command center for Apple cloud

Apple Mesa plant (photo 001)

Apple’s dream of engineering an unbreakable iPhone has shattered spectacularly to pieces after its ambitiously conceived manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona has failed to produce sapphire-hardened sheets of glass on an industrial scale, prompting its partner GT Advanced Technology to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But that doesn’t mean there’s no just as grand plan B for the mega-facility.

Bloomberg is reporting, and Apple has confirmed, that the Arizona plant will become a “command center” for Apple’s worldwide network of data center.

“We’re proud to continue investing in the U.S. with a new data center in Arizona, which will serve as a command center for our global networks,” Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, wrote in an e-mailed statement on Monday. “This multibillion-dollar project is one of the largest investments we’ve ever made.”

Note the ”multibillion-dollar project” used to describe the new facility.

Back when the Arizona plant was meant to produce sapphire, Apple committed to paying a little more than $500 million to GT Advanced for buying necessary factory equipment for mass-scale sapphire production.

In and of itself, the move filed as an ambitious undertaking from the financial standpoint. Data centers, however, are in a league of their own. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook typically pay north of $1 billion to run and maintain a single huge warehouse filled with computers that crunch data.

Apple Mesa plant (panorama 001)

Apple’s new “command center” will employ 150 full-time engineers and will create 300 to 500 construction and trade jobs, Doug Ducey, Arizona’s governor, confirmed to Bloomberg.

The failed sapphire plant was supposed to produce more than 700 high-quality jobs in the first year, generate significant capital investment in the years to come and also create approximately 1,300 construction and other associated jobs for the people of Arizona.

As is Apple’s wont, the upcoming data center facility will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, “including from a new local solar farm,” Apple said.

It’s interesting that the 1.3 million-square-foot building was actually a solar-panel factory before Apple and GT stepped in with plans of turning it into a sophisticated plant that would produce more half the world’s output of sapphire.

The iPhone maker will even pour additional money into building solar projects that the state claims will produce enough energy to power more than 14,500 Arizona homes.

Source: Bloomberg