Facebook buys old Sun campus for elbow room

With 79 acres of office space, social network looks to hire in 2011

Facebook is about to ease some growing pains.

The social networking company, which has been undergoing explosive user growth, is moving to a 79-acre office campus to accommodate its growing business.

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed to Computerworld on Tuesday that the company bought the former Sun Microsystems campus in Menlo Park, Calif. That property, which served as the corporate headquarters for Sun until the company was acquired by Oracle, covers 57 acres with nine buildings encompassing about 1 million square feet.

The company also purchased an adjacent 22-acre tract that is connected to the Sun campus by a tunnel. The Facebook spokeswoman said they're holding onto that property for possible future development.

"The company has been looking for a space that suits our long-term business needs and allows us to recreate the small community feel we enjoyed while in downtown Palo Alto," Facebook said in a statement.

The Facebook spokeswoman also said the company isn't releasing specific numbers but does expect to do more hiring this year. "Our new campus provides us with the necessary room to continue growing, and we look forward to what's ahead," she said.

The company, which has more than 2,000 employees globally and more than 1,400 in the Bay Area, will retain its offices in Palo Alto through this year and possibly into 2012. However, employees will move into the new campus in waves, with the first group expected to move in June or July.

"That should give Facebook plenty of elbow room to expand into as they grow," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "But I would be on the lookout for the 'Ghost of Hubris Past' that might be wandering around those buildings. Sun built that campus at the beginning of their glory years and it was their home during their long and painful fall. I'm not a superstitious guy, but I'd make sure that I burned some incense or something."

Facebook has been on quite a roll.

Last summer, the world's largest social networking site hit a major milestone - 500 million users. And early last month, it was learned that Facebook had raised $500 million from Goldman Sachs and a Russian investor, giving the company the financial muscle to possible take on rival and Internet powerhouse Google.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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