Discover the Largest Data Center in the World

Discover the Largest Data Center in the World

An Internet growth statistics report says over 4.95 billion social media accounts are active worldwide as of 2022. This stat might not be surprising, especially considering the popularity of YouTube, Facebook, and TikTok.  But where does all the data, including selfies, Snapchat messages, and videos we produce daily, go?

The answer is a data center. Cloud data storage is the backbone of the internet we know and love, and without a place to store all of our files and media, the internet would be in a state of confusion and emptiness. With lots of data floating around, an average data center can get pretty big. But where is the largest data center in the world? Let’s find out!

What is a Data Center?

123Net Datacenter walkway in Southfield, MI

©123net, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons – License

When the word “data center” comes to mind, you probably imagine a big warehouse-type building stuffed to capacity with racks of computer servers, right? 

You’re not wrong, but there’s actually a lot more that goes into it. 

Besides the actual “serving stuff,” a lot goes into the actual physical property. Data centers, or “server farms,” typically have advanced security and high-tech surveillance systems. As you can probably guess, the data housed at any facility is worth big bucks. If it gets into the wrong hands, a lot of people’s sensitive data and even their identities are at risk. So many data centers guard it fiercely.

A data center’s location is just as important. Strong infrastructure, with connections to highways or interstates, along with access to high power lines and fiber optic internet, is a major contributing factor to the success of a large data center. Additionally, since the biggest data centers employ hundreds of people, they must be close to towns and population centers.

You also need massive cooling systems, like Google’s 4-story tall cooling towers, at their Project 02 facility in Dalles, Oregon. Besides cooling, you also need to plan for outages and emergencies. Fire suppression systems are vital to prevent a catastrophe during a major malfunction. Additionally, UPS systems, or “uninterruptible power systems,” are crucial to keeping the center running in case the power goes out.

What about the computer hardware?

Without the computers in a data center, you have a plot of land with a massive building. The computing equipment needed to power a data center is truly impressive. These fall into three neat categories:

  1. Compute power
  2. Storage
  3. Networking

The computing power is basically the servers–the actual systems processing all the incoming and outgoing data. These are usually Dell PowerEdge servers, IBM ThinkCentre, or HP ProLiant machines. With multiple Xeon processors and hundreds of GBs of RAM in each, these are not your everyday desktop computer.

Now, multiply this massive computing power by tens of thousands, and you end up with a data center. Typically, these servers are mounted in racks or “server cabinets,” spanning dozens or even hundreds of aisles. For security reasons, most data centers won’t disclose precisely how many servers they have. But you can make some estimates based on two factors: square footage and power consumption. Larger data centers typically use more power and house lots of servers.

These servers are connected using a complex system of switches, routers, and cables. The standard ethernet cable, or “RJ45,” is the lifeblood of the data center, and you’ll often find miles and miles of these cables connecting everything.

Who Uses Data Centers Anyway?

When you think of data, you probably think of companies like FaceBook, home to an estimated three billion user accounts. Or perhaps, you think of YouTube, with over 150,000 video uploads every minute.

But what about Google? The search giant processes over 200 petabytes of data from search engines and advertising networks daily. It’s unsurprising Google has an alleged 30 data centers spread across ten countries worldwide.

Still, that is nothing compared to AWS, or more specifically, Amazon Web Services, the division of Amazon responsible for powering a huge chunk of the internet. Amazon realized long ago that it could capitalize on the incredible infrastructure it built for its website and sell it in a new paradigm known as “Infrastructure-as-a-service.” 

Also known collectively as “the Cloud,” many famous companies use AWS to power their apps. One such app is Netflix, the massively popular streaming service. AWS hosts 6% of all websites worldwide, with some of the biggest players choosing to use AWS services for their infrastructure.

It’s safe to say that AWS has its fair share of data centers.

What is the Largest Data Center in the World?

Few facilities can match the largest data center in the world. Many listicles across the internet try to round up the largest data centers, but the truth is more complicated. Quantifying a data center into largest or smallest is difficult because many factors are at play. It also doesn’t help that many companies try to hide the facts and withhold information, such as how many servers their data center holds.

Despite the difficulties, there are a few contenders. We’ll break them down into a few categories:

  • Largest by square footage – China Telecom
  • Largest by power consumption – the Citadel Campus
  • Largest for a single company – Meta, Prineville
  • Largest government data center – NSA Bumblehive

Largest Data Center by Square Footage: China Telecom Mongolia Information Park

At a cost of $3 billion, the largest data center in the world by square footage doesn’t come cheap. Owned by China Telecom, the facility is located in Hohhot, China, as part of the Mongolia Information Park. With total square footage of 10,763,910, Mongolia Information Park is a truly enormous property. 

While we don’t know precisely how many servers the data center houses, we can tell that it consumes 150 megawatts of power. One can only speculate that they use some advanced and efficient technology due to the massive cost and relatively low power consumption to square footage ratio. After all, data centers like the Citadel in Nevada, USA, consume several times more power at a similar size.

However, what lends the Mongolia Information Park its massive size is that it spans many buildings. The entire campus is made up of 42 data center buildings and 19 support buildings, or things like offices and warehouses.

Additionally, the geographic location of this data center is ideal, thanks to its proximity to Beijing and Tianjin. And the low ambient temperature of the surrounding environment means cooling costs are substantially lower than in a warmer climate.

Largest Data Center by Power: The Citadel Campus in Reno, Nevada

The Citadel Campus recently completed its massive expansion to 7.2 million square feet. With a power consumption of 650 megawatts, it is the largest data center by the power used. It also takes the crown for North America’s largest data center by square footage.

Located in Reno, Nevada, the Citadel Campus is a short distance from the Tesla Gigafactory. Thanks to its desert location, it can use vast solar power, making it run on 100% renewable energy.

Sitting on a multi-terabyte fiber connection, known as the Switch Superloop, the Citadel can provide an active-active connection for both Los Angeles and San Francisco. In other words, it can send data to San Francisco with just a 4-millisecond latency and Los Angeles with just a 9-millisecond latency.

Switch, the company that owns the Citadel Campus, specializes in building data centers. So, they know a thing or two about building a state-of-the-art facility. You’ll find more Switch data centers in Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Grand Rapids. 

The Citadel Campus is impressive, but it is still a multi-tenant building, meaning that it caters to multiple businesses, like Ecommerce, semiconductors, and Artificial Intelligence companies

To find the largest data center owned by a single company, you’ll have to look to one of the most famed social networking sites.

Largest Data Center For a Single Company: Facebook/Meta Data Center in Prineville, Oregon

Located in the high desert environment of the Pacific Northwest Rocky Mountains, the 3.8 million square foot Meta data center in Prineville is one of the largest data centers in the world. Developed by Sheehan Partners architects, the facility originally started in 2010 as Facebook’s first official data center. Over the past decade, they have continuously expanded, adding new buildings every few years.

The most recent addition to the Prineville data center is still under construction, with an estimated completion date in 2023. When it’s finished, the total campus will encompass square footage of over 4.6 million.

At a total cost of over $2 billion, the Prineville data center is a huge investment in Meta’s future. As the company is poising itself for growth with its new Metaverse platform, it’s no surprise they are investing heavily into strengthening its infrastructure. 

It’s unclear exactly how much power the Prineville data center will consume when fully built out, but we can expect it to run on 100% renewable energy. As Meta claims to be adding “more than 6,400 megawatts of new renewable energy to the U.S grid,” it’s safe to say that they will cover the needs of this data center.

Largest Government Data Center: NSA Bumblehive

It should come as no surprise that the largest government data center is owned by the NSA, or National Security Agency. With an investment of $1.5 billion, Bumblehive aims to combat the ever-increasing amount of data generated by monitoring the global internet. 

Located in the deserts of Bluffdale, Utah, the Bumblehive comprises a whopping 1.1 million square feet. But only around 10 percent of that space is dedicated to actual computing equipment. The rest is made of support and maintenance buildings.

While not the largest data center in the world, what makes Bumblehive remarkable is its backup systems. Thanks to its massive array of over 60 diesel-powered generators, the entire data center can run on backup power for up to three days in the event of a power failure. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you consider the facility’s 65-megawatt power consumption.

Discover the Largest Data Center in the World FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are the most data centers in the world?

The United States has the most data centers, with a reported 2700 facilities as of 2022. The highest concentration of the country’s data centers are located in Northern Virginia, an area known as Data Center Alley.

How many data centers does Google have? 

Google operates nearly 30 data centers in 10 countries across the globe.

Who owns the most data in the world?

Google processes over 200 petabytes of user data every day, according to a recent report.


What is the first data center in the world?

The first data center ever could be argued, but most would agree that the University of Pennsylvania created the first data center to house the ENIAC system in 1945.

How do data centers make money?

Data centers primarily make money by leasing server equipment or space in a server rack.

Who runs data centers?

Data centers are most commonly owned and operated by cloud service companies like Google, AWS, and Microsoft, although social media giants such as Facebook have their own data centers.

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