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Facebook data center construction ramps up


An artist’s rendering shows what Facebook’s Los Lunas data center will look like after completion of the second phase. (Courtesy Facebook)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Facebook’s 330-acre campus in Los Lunas is buzzing with activity, with some 650 workers busting up the desert landscape and laying the foundations for the first two of six massive data centers the company expects to build there.

The construction workforce will soon peak at about 1,000 people, Facebook Data Operations West Region Manager KC Timmons told participants at Albuquerque Economic Development’s quarterly luncheon Thursday at Sandia Resort and Casino.

“We have 650 folks on site today, and we’re headed to 1,000 — 80 percent of them from New Mexico,” Timmons said. “We’re actively hiring for a lot of construction jobs. We’re growing as we speak.”

The social media giant announced last September its plans to build the data center complex in Los Lunas. The project could include up to six different centers at Huning Business Park near Interstate 25 and N.M. 6, each costing about $250 million to build.

The company broke ground on the first 510,000-square-foot facility last October, and in July, it announced plans to begin construction of a second, 460,000-square-foot building. Once finished, those two buildings will be six times larger than the University of New Mexico’s Pit basketball arena, Timmons said.

The full 330-acre campus amounts to about half the size of the Santa Fe Ski Area. If all six data centers are built, it would mean a $1.5 billion investment in Los Lunas over the next eight years.

That equals the total investment for all private-sector construction projects combined in Albuquerque and Rio Rancho over the last eight years, said AED President Gary Tonjes.

“This is a big deal,” Tonjes said. “We’re glad they’re here.”

The Los Lunas complex is one of 10 massive data center projects Facebook is operating, building or planning around the globe. Five are already up and running.

The company needs its own data centers, rather than co-locating in third-party commercial installations, to manage its humongous online traffic. That includes about 2 billion Facebook users every month, plus 1.2 billion Messenger users and 1.2 billion more on WhatsApp.

Apart from the sheer number of users, the evolution in how people use Facebook’s online services means the company must continually expand its data-management infrastructure. Rather than just sending photos and text, for example, Facebook users now regularly send video to friends and colleagues.

“That creates different demands and pressure on infrastructure,” Timmons said. “That’s why we’re building these data centers.”

Facebook chose Los Lunas “first and foremost” because of its skilled labor pool to build the data centers and run operations, Timmons said.

Once operating, each data center will employ about 50 people in permanent positions.