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Microsoft invades 'city of friendly people'

$500m data center adds to good cheer

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No desperate city is safe from the data center builders employed by Microsoft and Google.

Microsoft has announced plans for another $500m server and storage farm - this time in the Chicago suburb Northlake, the "city of friendly people." The US data center complements a $500m plant going up in Dublin and others already in place in Quincy, Washington and San Antonio, Texas.

It seems that $500- $600m is the going rate for mega data centers. Google has been crafting a number of similar centers all around the country.

It's no secret that Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and a couple others have locked into a battle to build out their data center infrastructures as quickly as possible. Obviously, these companies need a lot of hardware to support basics such as their search ambitions. The companies, however, are also laying the groundwork for a flood of software-over-the-network type services.

The mainstream press appears fascinated with these data Goliaths - so much so that hacks resort to painful jokes as they attempt to get across the scale to non-tech readers.

For example, Microsoft's partner for the Northlake center Ascent put its CEO on the horn with a Chicago Sun-Times scribe. The result?

A soccer fan, (the CEO Phil Horstmann) described the center as the "Wembley stadium" of data centers, referring to the large stadium in Britain.

Wembley? Make that Web-ley stadium.

Is there no God?

The web giants tend to pick their mega-center locations based on access to cheap power.

"We prospected the site and found that unique intersection of available land with a lot of power, a lot of water, and close proximity to bandwidth," another Ascent executive told InformationWeek.

In many cases, the service providers also receive generous tax breaks for bringing their business to depressed towns or run down parts of larger cities. Rarely, however, do the mega centers result in many jobs, since it takes only a couple dozen folks to make sure the servers and storage hardware are up and running. ®

Register editor Ashlee Vance has just pumped out a new book that's a guide to Silicon Valley. The book starts with the electronics pioneers present in the Bay Area in the early 20th century and marches up to today's heavies. Want to know where Gordon Moore eats Chinese food, how unions affected the rise of microprocessors or how Fairchild Semiconductor got its start? This is the book for you - available at Amazon US here or in the UK here.

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