Meta puts $1.5B Alabama datacenter on hold pending redesign • The Register

Another Meta datacenter is in limbo after the company announced it was pausing construction of a $1.5 billion bitbarn under development in Huntsville, Alabama.

Unlike Meta’s datacenters in Denmark, the Huntsville datacenter has not been canceled. Instead, the project has been delayed to implement design changes to a portion of the facility, according to a statement provided to The Register.

“In order to best serve our needs for the future, we have decided to change the design of a portion of our Huntsville datacenter, which will result in a temporary construction pause,” 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.”

Announced in 2018, the Huntsville campus was expanded earlier this year to include two additional data centers, bringing the project to 2.5 million square feet and around $1.5 billion. When complete, the facility is expected to employ 300 workers.

The decision comes less than a week after Meta axed two of three datacenters planned for the Odense region of Denmark, in what Peter Münster, Meta’s head of communications for the Nordics, described as a shift of resources to higher priority growth areas, including a ” strategic investment in artificial intelligence.”

However, it’s unclear whether the last-minute retrofit to Meta’s Huntsville datacenter campus will involve the deployment of AI infrastructure. Meta did not address our questions on the subject.

Meta looks to AI to save ad business, advance AR/VR

Meta’s decision to pull back on its datacenter projects may be driven in part by the company’s investments in augmented and virtual reality, which it calls the metaverse.

The Social Network’s push into the metaverse has been a point of concern for investors after the company posted a 52 percent decline in net income, which fell to $4.4 billion during Q3.

“We’ve made tough calls this year to stop doing some work, so we can maintain focus on those things we feel are most important,” Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth, wrote in a blog post Monday, in an apparent reference to the company’s mass layoffs last month.

For now, Meta’s suite of core apps, like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, remain a key focus. According to Bosworth, these apps will account for roughly 80 percent of the company’s investments in the new year. That leaves 20 percent for Reality Labs, the division in charge of executing the broader company’s metaverse vision.

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

“Our investments are also paying dividends in ranking and recommendations-powered products like Reels or our core ads systems, where we’re seeing impressive gains as we deploy increasingly powerful AI models,” he wrote. “And it’s just as true in Reality Labs, where technologies like Meta Reality or Presence Platform depend heavily on advanced AI to function.”

Meta has also added a lot of accelerated compute capacity over the past year, and much of it is being rented 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 bolster its capacity.

As such, there’s a good chance Meta is looking to reduce costs by shifting much of this capacity back on Friday. ®