A rendering of the future Meta data center expansion in DeKalb County, Illinois. Meta adds three data center buildings. (Image: Meta)
Meta continues its extraordinary expansion by preparing its digital infrastructure for the metaverse. Meta will invest more than $1 billion to add three additional data centers to its cloud campus in DeKalb, Illinois, the company announced today.
Meta is ramping up its data center investments to support its transition from Facebook to Meta, retooling for the needs of 3D virtual worlds, which require more computing power than social media apps. As it develops the software side of its metaverse, Meta is building more data centers to ensure that
That means building clustered data centers, as seen in DeKalb’s expansion, which will take its campus to 2.4 million square feet of data center space and support 200 jobs.
“We are excited to expand our presence in Illinois. The City of DeKalb and the State of Illinois have been great partners from the beginning, and we look forward to continuing a strong and successful partnership for years to come,” said Darcy Nothnagle, Director of Development community and economic, Meta.
Meta announced the DeKalb data center in June 200, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It typically builds between three and nine buildings on a campus, covering up to 5 million square feet of space. It also provides renewable energy to support each of its campuses. In Illinois, Meta invested in two new wind energy projects in Morgan and DeWitt counties, adding a total of 295 megawatts of renewable energy to the local grid.
Meta is also partnering with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on a project to use artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce the carbon footprint of our construction.
Meta is still in construction mode to support the growing global audience of its platforms, which include Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. The company recently said it has 47 data centers under construction, including capacity expansions in existing buildings as well as new construction at multiple sites.
The company seems to be accelerating the construction of its data centers, as evidenced by the many recent announcements.
- On April 21, Meta announced that it would add 1 million square feet of capacity to its existing data center campus in New Albany, Ohio.
- On April 5, the company unveiled plans for a new $800 million cloud campus in Temple, Texas, a suburb of Austin.
- On March 24, it announced an $800 million investment in a data center campus in Kansas City, Mo.
- On February 16, Meta announced that it would build a data center in Kuna, Idaho with an initial investment of $800 million.
It’s an insane pace and builds on an active expansion phase in 2020 and 2021, when Meta launched new data center construction projects in Arizona, Illinois and Tennessee, as well as major expansions of existing campuses in Iowa, Utah, Georgia and Prineville, Oregon, where the company is rolling out a multi-story data center design featuring two floors of server rooms to increase capacity.
Meta is also the largest buyer of developer-built third-party “wholesale” data center space, leasing 283 megawatts of capacity in six markets in 2021, according to North American Data Centers. This massive rental goes beyond Meta’s internal construction program, as it pursues a strategy of building huge data center campuses in remote areas, while renting space to developers in the largest markets. of data centers.
Creating the data network of the future
The company recently changed its name from Facebook to Meta as part of a new mission to create a metaverse – a globally distributed virtual world that can serve a billion or more users. Meta has already invested more than $16 billion in building and operating 18 Facebook cloud campuses in the United States, which when completed will cover 41 million square feet of data center space.
The first hints of how Meta envisions its future infrastructure could be seen in the recent deployment of its Research SuperCluster (RSC), the company’s first purpose-built data center for the workloads of the future it envisions.
“The experiments we build for the Metaverse require enormous computing power (quintillions of operations/second!),” said Meta Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “RSC will enable new AI models that can learn from billions of examples, understand hundreds of languages, and more.”
To understand how a successful metaverse will impact data center infrastructure, it’s helpful to zoom out on recent high-level analysis from industry watchers. Citi Securities analysts recently pegged the overall metaverse economy at $8 trillion to $13 trillion by 2030.
“To achieve the true vision of the metaverse, immense investments would be required in hardware, networks, data centers and processing power, orders of magnitude greater than exist in the world today. “, Citi analysts said in a research note. “As it stands, the internet infrastructure is not suitable for building a fully immersive content streaming metaverse.
environment, which allows users to seamlessly switch between experiences. To make Metaverse’s vision a reality, we expect significant investment in a confluence of technologies.
Intel experts use similar language about the requirements for a large-scale metaverse.
“We need orders of magnitude more powerful compute capabilities, accessible at much lower latencies across a multitude of device form factors,” said Raja Koduri, senior vice president and general manager of computing systems. accelerated computing at Intel, in a blog positiont. “To enable these capabilities at scale, the entire plumbing of the Internet will require major upgrades.”
Data center infrastructure is just one part of this growth. Much of the technological innovation to support the metaverse will be seen in processing power and networking. The RSC is Meta’s first pass to the supercomputing infrastructure for the Metaverse, but it was largely created using off-the-shelf hardware that is currently available. Future releases will include custom hardware that is finely tuned for Meta’s application needs.
The most important area of innovation will be networking. Meta is already hard at work on this, as seen in the new networking hardware it deployed for the Open Compute Project Summit, including a next-generation top-of-rack switch, a key component in data center networks. of data.
The Open Compute Project’s hardware innovation ecosystem will be key to building an infrastructure that can meet the computing challenges of the metaverse. Sharing this technology openly will extend the benefits of this innovation to other companies with metaverse ambitions.
Internet infrastructure provides an economic boost
Investing in data centers is where the metaverse can impact local communities and their economies. Meta’s increased investment in DeKalb is a good example.
“With more than 1,200 construction workers on site each day at the Meta DeKalb Data Center and plans to support hundreds of permanent employees when fully operational, all of Illinois can agree that the data center project has been a boon to Illinois and a great benefit to the City of DeKalb and DeKalb County,” said Paul Borek, Executive Director, DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation. “The expansion proves that Illinois, and specifically DeKalb County, can meet the needs of large global corporations that require a skilled workforce, modern infrastructure, and a strong, competitive business environment.”
“The impact Meta has had within the City of DeKalb goes beyond just an economic impact,” said Mayor Cohen Barnes, City of DeKalb, IL. “Since day one, they’ve made a concerted effort to have a bigger impact on DeKalb.”
This includes Meta Community Action Grant Program, who has worked with schools and nonprofits in communities where companies build data centers. The program will launch in DeKalb County in the fall of 2022.
“From the moment Meta announced plans to expand its facilities in DeKalb County, company representatives began to engage with the community in meaningful ways: as a think-tank partner on local issues, generous supporter of community events and a progressive employer,” said Dr. Lisa Freeman, President, Northern Illinois University.
De Kalb is about an hour west of Chicago in central Illinois, well beyond the Suburban Chicago cluster. It will be worth watching if the Facebook project is a compute island, or if other data center projects are targeting the region, effectively expanding the western borders of the Greater Chicago market.
Meta says its data centers contributed $18.6 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) to the U.S. economy from 2017 to 2019, or $6.2 billion annually, according to RTI research. International.