Apple Inc. is reportedly planning to spend upwards of $2 billion to turn the site of its former sapphire glass production facility into a data center, which could make Apple more competitive with data giants like Google Inc. and IBM Corp. GT Advanced Technologies Inc.’s failed screen factory will help Apple’s cloud-based tech, like the iPhone’s Siri digital assistant, but leaves the future of the bankrupt company in doubt.
The former sapphire production plant in Mesa, Arizona, will be renovated to eventually “serve as a command center for our global networks,” Apple told Bloomberg. “This multibillion-dollar project is one of the largest investments we’ve ever made.”
Apple said there will be 150 American workers at the building year-round, and as many as 500 workers temporarily as the transformation into a data center takes place. The 1.3 million-square-foot building will be powered entirely by renewable energy, some of which will come from a new solar plant, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement.
GT Advanced said last month that it was looking for buyers following a bankruptcy court’s approval of its settlement with Apple. Apple had contracted the small company as a supplier, and both later pointed fingers at each other over why the agreement was untenable. Sapphire is a slowly grown gem, and notoriously hard to produce reliably on a large scale.
Cloud services are increasingly becoming an important part of Apple’s software suite. Siri relies on them, as does the company’s premium photo-storage service, iCloud.