June 2, 2011 at 1:02 PM ET
In rural North Carolina, big structures stand out. Especially when you can see the lay of the land through Google Earth. One conspicuous building really packs a visual punch, but until Wednesday, it was invisible to the satellite imaging.
The $1 billion, 500,000-square-foot white complex can be seen as clear as day on the Google Map in satellite view when the intersection of Startown Road and U.S. Route 321 in Maiden, N.C. (or 6081 Startown Rd.), is plugged into the search box. But apparently, that wasn't the case before the announcement about iCloud. Then, whatever force field surrounded the building shut down and it could be seen via satellite. Real people saw it on the ground and from airplanes, but for some reason, it couldn't be seen from space.
Credit keeps coming back to Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt for first noticing the missing building in October. He posted a screen image of the area pre-iCloud announcement that shows clear incongruity in the terrain on the left-hand side, as though a piece had been taken out, and then reassembled. Kinda like Human Centipede, it just doesn't look right.
But Elmer-DeWitt updates with fly-over images that shows that it's just an optical illusion, that the building exists and matches what appears on Google Earth today.
On Tuesday, Apple revealed it is going to unveil iCloud next week, which would also explain the enormity of the data center in North Carolina, which The Atlantic's Nicholas Jackson says is a solid choice for a server farm of this magnitude.
It doesn't take a whole lot of employees to maintain a massive server farm, just a lot of cheap power, which is why this building can be found in the small North Carolina town of Maiden, where coal is plentiful.
He may have a point with that; there doesn't seem to be a very big parking lot at all.