Apple’s failed Arizona sapphire plant will be $2 billion data ‘command center’

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GT Advanced
From sapphire to data. Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac
Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

The fate of GT Advanced Technologies’ failed sapphire plant in Mesa, Arizona, has been decided. After committing to repurposing the 1.3-million-square-foot facility, Apple revealed today that it will invest $2 billion in making it a global command center for all of its cloud networks.

The company plans to have 150 full-time employees based in Mesa to operate the center once it’s built, and there will be an accompanying solar farm to power the facility with 100% renewable energy.

“We’re proud to continue investing in the U.S. with a new data center in Arizona, which will serve as a command center for our global networks,” Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple, wrote in an e-mailed statement on Monday. “This multibillion-dollar project is one of the largest investments we’ve ever made.”

GTAT filed for bankruptcy last October after its sapphire partnership with Apple went sour, and the two companies settled in December. As part of the arrangement, GTAT has until the end of 2015 to get out of the plant. Apple will begin renovating in 2016.

Apple originally brought on GTAT to produce sapphire iPhone and Apple Watch screens, but GTAT failed to meet its quota and suffered poor management. GTAT represents a rare and painful misstep in Apple’s formidable supply chain strategy. Time for a fresh start.

Source: Bloomberg