Meta To Build Indiana Datacenter To Support AI Pivot
- By John K. Waters
Meta Platforms is putting some meat on the bones of its pivot away from the metaverse to a focus on AI. The Silicon Valley-based social media company is building an $800 million data center in Indiana optimized to handle artificial intelligence services.
Located in the city of Jeffersonville's River Ridge Commerce Center, the new facility will include liquid-cooled hardware that’s designed to support the ravenous computing needs of AI. The move was enthusiastically supported by local leaders, including Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, One Southern Indiana, the area chamber of commerce, the River Ridge Development Authority, Indiana's Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg, and others.
"They are doing it in a mega way," Holcomb said in a statement first reported in The Indiana Courier Journal. "We’re going to end up being the AI capital of the Midwest."
Meta's decision to veer away from its focus on the metaverse (which included the company's headline-grabbing name change in 2021) to ramp up its AI efforts is not surprising. The company reportedly lost billions on the metaverse strategy while AI was grabbing the world's attention and spawning startups by the dozen.
Insiders say that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg is now making AI his top priority. The company's Fundamental AI Research (FAIR) team "seeks to further our fundamental understanding in both new and existing domains, covering the full spectrum of topics related to AI, with the mission of advancing the state-of-the-art of AI through open research for the benefit of all," according to the group's website.
In a video posted on Instagram, (owned by Meta), Zuckerberg said, " Our long-term vision is to build general intelligence, open source it responsibly, and make it widely available so everyone can benefit." On Threads (also owned by Meta) he confirmed that the company was combining the FAIR group with Meta's GenAI product team to expedite user access to AI features
So, Zuckerberg's focus isn't just on AI but AGI—artificial general intelligence—which is a type of AI that possesses the ability to understand, learn, and apply knowledge across a wide range of tasks and domains like a human.
"It's become clear that the next generation of services requires building full general intelligence building the best AI assistants as creators as businesses and more that needs advances in every area of AI from reasoning to planning to coding to memory and other cognitive abilities," Zuckerberg said. "This technology is so important, and the opportunities are so great that we should open source and make it as widely available as we responsibly can."
In a post on Instagram, he said, "We're currently training out next-gen model Llama 3, and we're building massive compute infrastructure to support our future roadmap, including 350k H100s by the end of this year—and overall, almost 600k H100 equivalents of compute if you include GPUs..."
Infrastructure like the new facility in Indiana.
He also said the company is currently training the third generation of LLaMA (Large Language Model Meta AI), its foundational large language model.
Last year Meta rolled out new generative AI tools for all advertisers, expanding on an earlier test that allowed marketers create images and text more quickly. What Meta calls "our first generative AI-powered features for ad creatives in Meta’s Ads Manager," features Background Generation, which allows users to creates multiple backgrounds to complement the advertiser’s product images, Image Expansion, which allows users to adjust "creative assets" to fit different aspect ratios across multiple surfaces, and Text Variations, which allows users to generate multiple versions of ad texts based on advertiser’s original copy.
Meta's FAIR group is shifting from the Reality Labs team, which is run by CTO Andrew Bosworth to the Family of Apps group, which is run by Chief Product Officer Chris Cox. Both AI research heads Yann LeCun, VP and Chief AI Scientist, and Joelle Pineau, VP of AI Research, will now both report to Cox.
The push may be on at Meta, but LeCun has said that creating AGI is likely to take years, if not decades to fully develop, the Spanish newspaper El País reported. During a talk with journalists at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, LeCun said, "It’s going to require new scientific breakthroughs that we don’t know of yet. You might wonder why the people who are not scientists believe this, since they are not the ones who are in the trenches trying to make it work."
And therefore, LeCun asserted, it's too early to start regulating AI. "...asking for regulations because of fear of superhuman intelligence is like asking for regulation of transatlantic flights at near the speed of sound in 1925."
Meta's new Indiana data center will be housed in a 700,000-square-foot facility on a 619-acre campus. The River Ridge Commerce Center houses facilities for Kroger, Amazon, and GE Appliances.
John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.