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Facebook to build data center near Des Moines, Iowa

The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
The Facebook logo is pictured at the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Facebook Inc is building a data center near Des Moines, Iowa, to bolster its computing power as it rolls out new services and as the growing use of smartphones increase the pressure on its infrastructure.

This facility in Altoona, Iowa, will be the social networking company's fourth since 2010, when Facebook began construction on its first data center in Prineville, Oregon.

Facebook would not disclose the cost of the new data center, but said it would be within the $1.8 billion in capital expenditures that it projected for 2013 in January. A report in the Des Moines Register on Friday, citing unnamed sources, pegged the facility's total cost at $1.5 billion.

Facebook said it received approval for the data center from the Altoona City Council on Tuesday. Iowa officials have been courting Internet companies to build data centers in the state, enticing them with tax incentives.

The new data center, which will be built on a 200-acre plot of former wheat and soy fields purchased by Facebook, comes as the company's 1 billion-plus users are increasingly accessing the service on smartphones and tablets.

Jay Parikh, Facebook's vice president of engineering, said users typically came to the site throughout the day, sending messages and uploading photos. Supporting that ongoing usage while maintaining the ability to offer new services requires more infrastructure, Parikh told Reuters last week.

"We don't ever want to not be able to launch a product because we don't have the compute ready for some new awesome product," Parikh said.

Instagram, the popular photo-sharing service that Facebook acquired in 2012, is also a factor. Amazon.com Inc's Amazon Web Services hosts the service, but Facebook plans to move it to its own equipment and infrastructure by the time the Iowa data center is operational.

FOCUSED ON ENERGY

The company plans to break ground in June and expects the data center to be up and running by the end of 2014, said Tom Furlong, vice president of site operations.

The initial facility will be a 476,000-square-foot building, based on the same energy-efficient architecture that Facebook designed for its other data centers, but there will be room to expand and build up to three buildings.

The company, which has committed to a minimum investment of $300 million, will receive $18 million in state tax benefits and various other financial incentives from Iowa.

Facebook said it was exploring options for renewable energy for the data center, in keeping with its goal of getting 25 percent of such facilities' power from renewable sources by 2015. The site's supplier, MidAmerican, gets a quarter of its energy from wind power.

Energy use by Internet data centers is increasingly in the public spotlight because of the proliferation of a new crop of "cloud-based" Web services that store user data on remote servers.

Last week, Google said Duke Energy Corp, the energy provider for its North Carolina data center, would offer a renewable power option for the company and other large corporate customers in the region.

Greenpeace criticized Facebook in 2010 for relying too much on coal power at its first data center in Oregon. The company struck an agreement with the environmental group the following year to increase its use of renewable energy.

Facebook plans to rely primarily on renewable energy to power its Lulea, Sweden, data center, which is under construction.

(Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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