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Microsoft to build massive Virginia data center

The software maker confirms plans to spend up to $499 million to build a modular data center in Southern Virginia.

Microsoft has confirmed plans to build a large new data center in Mecklenburg County, Va., as the company is once again expanding its data center operations.

In a press release from the Virginia governor's office, Microsoft said it will spend up to $499 million to open the facility, which will use its latest modular, fourth-generation approach and will be located near the town of Boydton. The governor's office touted the plant as "the largest economic investment in Southern Virginia history."

Microsoft was quite vague in its description of the center, saying only that it would use the company's latest modular design, which can be almost entirely pre-outfitted with computers, networking, and power connections. "This new data center will enable the best possible delivery of services to our current and future customers," General Manager Kevin Timmons said in a statement. Microsoft declined to offer any further details.

Such facilities add a lot in terms of local construction jobs, but employ only a relative handful of people once built, with a good number of those handling security. In this case, the data center is expected to create about 50 full-time jobs.

For Microsoft, it's a sign that the company is once again looking to add capacity for Windows Azure, Windows Live, and other hosted software. Microsoft had been aggressively adding facilities including new centers in Dublin, Ireland, and a Chicago facility that opened last year. However, it slowed things down a bit as the economy faltered, announcing a delay in plans for a facility in Iowa, just five months after that facility was announced.

However, the Iowa center is now back on, with plans to open it by Spring 2011. Microsoft is also in the process of expanding its facility in Quincy, Wash., using the fourth-generation data center technology.

Here's a look at Microsoft's Chicago facility from a tour we did last year as well as a video interview with a pair of Microsoft executives talking about the data center strategy.