Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Facebook expands its largest data centre campus in the world

While the world looks at Facebook’s mega Iowa campus, in North Carolina the company’s data centre has been caught up in a racial harassment lawsuit.

Less than five days after opening its $1bn Texan data centre, Facebook has now broken ground on the expansion of its 400-acre campus in Iowa.

The site, Facebook’s most extensive to date, is located in the city of Altoona, which has a population of just over 46,200.

In the campus, the social media giant already runs a data centre footprint of 1.5 million sqf, however, the web scaler is to add an extra one million sqf of data centre floor with the expansion now under construction.

The building will be the fourth operated by Facebook in Altoona, according to Facebook’s Brice Towns, site manager for the Altoona data centre.

He said: “We expect this expansion to keep the hundreds of workers on our construction crews busy until 2020, and at one point, we project 800 construction workers will be on site daily.

“Additionally, this expansion will add additional full-time employees to the more than 200 we already have on site.”

The data centre campus was originally announced in 2013 and has since then grown to account to three builds, with one still under construction.

The site requires 138MW of power, outsourced from renewable energy sources such as wind from the company’s wind project and collaboration with MidAmercian Energy in Wellsburg, also in Iowa.

The same source will now be used to power the fourth building.

Towns said: “The City of Altoona continues to be a great partner to Facebook, and we’re excited about the growth happening in the community — including new retail options, hotels, and restaurants, as well as our great school districts.”

The company’s data centre portfolio counts today with nine facilities, mostly in the US.


Facebook caught up in racism lawsuit

Elsewhere, Facebook’s North Carolina data centre in Forest City has been caught up in a racial harassment and discrimination dispute.

According to the Charlotte Observer, two African-American workers at the site in Rutherford County sued Facebook for allowing the harassment and discrimination against African-American employees “to infect the working conditions” at the data centre.

In the lawsuit, filed in November 2016 in San Jose, California, it reads that a former operations manager describer a night shift engineer as a “lazy n***** who wants everything handed to him”. The lawsuit has now been transferred to the US District Court in Asheville.

The worker, named Robert Gary, said the incident happened after he had asked for a pay raise. Gary joined the data centre in 2012 as a maintenance technician earning $20.05 per hour.

The lawsuit continues to say that other white workers were hired in matching positions to Gary or higher, however, their pay was of $22 to $24 per hour.

In 2013, the lawsuit says Gary’s performance was reviewed and in 2014 his results met or exceeded expectations.

However, the lawsuit shows that Gary was presented with a $1.67 per hour pay rise, while white colleagues received a $6 per hour raise.

A second employee, named Robert Duffy and who had been appointed as assistant facility manager in January 2014 and consequently promoted to facilities manager in the Summer of that year, has also been named in the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit it is explained that according to written records from a fellow employee, Duffy had also been called a “n*****” by the same operations manager.

A third African-American worker has, according to the lawsuit, been referred to as a “monkey” by the same manager.

Similarly to Gary, Duffy said he also underpaid when compared to white colleagues. He later left the data centre “due to intolerable working conditions,” it reads in the lawsuit. Gary remains a worker at the data centre.

The combined lawsuit is now claiming $25,000 in damages from Facebook.

Facebook was quick to react, saying that the company took immediate action by firing the manager in cause. The company said it did not take adverse action against either Gary or Duffy.

The spokesperson also said all national data centre employees receive training to for anti-bias, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination actions.

She said: “We would never tolerate any behaviour like this.”