Meta puts $1.5 billion Alabama data center on hold pending redesign • The Register

Another meta data center is in limbo after the company announced it would pause construction of a $1.5 billion Bitbarn in Huntsville, Alabama.

Unlike Meta’s data centers in Denmark, the Huntsville data center has not been cancelled. Instead, the project was delayed to accommodate design changes to part of the facility, a statement said The registry.

“In order to best meet our needs going forward, we have decided to change the design of a portion of our data center in Huntsville, which will result in a temporary pause in construction,” the statement said.

“We remain committed to this community, our local stakeholders and our supply chain partners. We will work closely with our stakeholders to transition this project as efficiently as possible.”

The Huntsville campus, announced in 2018, saw the addition of two additional data centers earlier this year, bringing the project to 2.5 million square feet and approximately $1.5 billion. Upon completion, the facility will employ 300 people.

The decision comes less than a week after Meta scrapped two of three data centers planned for the Odense region of Denmark, in what Peter Munster, Meta’s communications director for the Nordics, described as a shift of resources to higher priority growth areas, including one ” Strategic investment in artificial intelligence.”

However, it’s unclear whether the last-minute upgrade of Meta’s data center campus in Huntsville will include the deployment of AI infrastructure. Meta did not respond to our questions on the subject.

Meta relies on AI to save ad business and boost AR/VR

Meta’s decision to pull back from its data center projects could be due in part to the company’s investments in augmented and virtual reality, which it calls Metaverse.

The social network’s foray into the Metaverse was a cause for concern for investors after the company posted a 52 percent drop in net income, which fell to $4.4 billion in the third quarter.

“We’ve made tough decisions this year to stop some work so we can focus on the things we think are most important,” Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth wrote in a blog post Monday, in an apparent clue the company’s mass layoffs over the past month.

For now, Meta’s suite of core apps, like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, remains a major focus. According to Bosworth, these apps will account for around 80 percent of the company’s investments in the new year. That leaves 20 percent for Reality Labs, the department responsible for executing the company’s Metaverse vision.

Despite the split, it’s clear that Bosworth believes both company strategies will benefit greatly from AI/ML.

“Our investments are also paying off in ranking- and recommendation-based products like Reels or our core ad systems, where we’re seeing impressive gains as we deploy increasingly powerful AI models,” he wrote. “And it’s also true for reality labs, where technologies like meta reality or presence platform rely heavily on advanced AI to work.”

Meta has also added a lot of accelerated compute capacity over the past year, and much of it is leased from cloud providers like Azure and AWS. In May, the company purchased a dedicated cluster of more than 5,400 Nvidia A100 GPUs from Azure to increase its capacity.

So there’s a good chance Meta is trying to cut costs by moving much of that capacity back on-premises. ® Meta puts $1.5 billion Alabama data center on hold pending redesign • The Register

Rick Schindler

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