Apple's Splashy New Data Center Finally Appears on Google Earth

We don't know how Apple kept Google from revealing its latest project, but after iCloud was announced, the curtains were peeled back

AppleDatacenter-Post.jpg

If you powered up Google Earth or visited Google Maps and asked one of the programs to show you the intersection of Startown Road and U.S. Route 321 (35.588364, -81.26235), the home of Apple's newest -- and most mysterious -- data center, anytime before Wednesday morning you would have seen a blank space, like the image presented below. The satellite imagery stopped just outside of the construction site for the $1 billion, 500,000-square-foot server farm that we knew, thanks to a trespassing photographer and local television reporters, was being erected.

We still don't know how Apple was able to keep Google from showing off its latest project, but after Tuesday's announcement that Steve Jobs would present the iCloud at next week's World Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco, the curtains were peeled back. As of today, setting the right coordinates on Google Maps will bring up the image embedded above, which shows ... a sleek white box. "Lo and behold, there it was," wrote Philip Elmer-DeWitt on CNN's Mac blog, Apple 2.0. "A huge, white, nondescript building with a road leading in, a road leading out and almost no employee parking."

It doesn't take a whole lot of employees to maintain a massive server farm, just a lot of cheap power, which is why this building can be found in the small North Carolina town of Maiden, where coal is plentiful. Several other major technology companies have data centers in the surrounding area.

It's all but certain that the new data center will be used to house all of the files associated with Apple's latest offering, the iCloud service. The blog 9 to 5 Mac suspects that Jobs will even include a few "splashy press shots of the facility" in his keynote this coming Monday.

AppleDatacenter2-Post.jpg

Images: Google Earth.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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