Microsoft has named the spot for its latest datacentre, saying that Des Moines in Iowa will be the location for a huge server plant that will serve up Hotmail and other web services.
In much the same way that call centres boomed in the 1990s, the close of this decade will see an explosion of these facilities to handle surging volumes of internet users. Access to vast amounts of power and connectivity are necessary and, in the US, tax breaks and other sweeteners are being used as lures to attract the likes of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.
It’s not too fanciful to suggest that these gigantic server rooms will be the centres of the information revolution in the same way that dark Satanic mills and coal mines were at the heart of earlier industrial revolutions. Unfortunately, for those who dream of them driving employment in depressed areas though, don’t bet on it.
Automation is so sophisticated that these datacentres can run on a skeleton staff and Microsoft’s Des Moines facility will only employ 50 to 75 workers, according to reports. In the UK, most large datacentres continue to be built in or around London as companies like to be within 30 miles of their assets. So even though these facilities will be the heartbeat of the new economy, they won’t be generating much more than data for the localities that attract them.