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Microsoft is shelling out $500m on a new European data centre in Ireland to support its growing online business.

There will be tens of thousands of servers pumping out web-based apps to internet fanciers all over the world, the company says.

But it only needs to hire between 15 and 20 staff to run the behemoth's first Windows Live data centre not on US soil, because much of the system will be automated.

Despite the small number of jobs generated by the new power-chugging 50,000 sq ft site, which will be located in a biz park just outside Dublin, Prime Minister Bertie Ahern leapt in to applaud Microsoft's decision to plonk the building on Irish land.

He gushed that it was "a further example of Ireland being to the forefront when it comes to the cutting edge of technology... The Irish government recognises the importance of being a competitive, innovation-driven, knowledge economy," according to Associated Press.

Microsoft, which already has some 1,200 staff at a separate office in Ireland, said work would begin later this month and it expects the centre to open for business by 2009.

In related news, the software King Kong also looks set to be opening a separate data centre in Northlake, Illinois which will also chug out web-based apps to the masses.

Crain's Chicago Business reports that construction on a new $500m site large enough to hold eight [American] football fields was already underway. ®

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