Facebook shares its data center secrets

The company wants its new Open Compute Project to help improve data center designs everywhere

Facebook is sharing some of the secrets that help make its Prineville, Oregon, data center one of the world's most efficient.

The company has released specifications for its Open Compute Project -- Facebook's secret data center recipes for rack-mounted servers that weigh less and power systems that are more efficient -- and also is talking about its methods for cooling lots of computers without air conditioning.

Call it an open-source data center design.

Facebook thinks that by sharing information it can help make data centers better. That will be good for Facebook, but also good for new businesses that crunch a lot of data, said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. "We're trying to foster this ecosystem where developers can easily built startups, and we think that by sharing this we're going to make it more efficient for this ecosystem to grow," he said.

Data center needs are only going to get more intense for Facebook as it adds more real-time applications, Zuckerberg said. "So being able to design more effective servers, both from a power-efficiency perspective and a cost perspective, is a big part of us being able to build all the stuff we build," he said.

The company has been tweaking and tuning its data server specifications for about a year now: cutting out big uninterruptible power-supply systems, designing a building that doesn't need air conditioning, and working with server makers to build lighter and cooler systems that are easy to repair.

"These servers are 38 per cent more efficient than the servers we were buying previously," said Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of technical operations at Facebook. They also cost 24 per cent less than the industry standard to build out, he said.

Facebook has partnered with Advanced Micro Devices, Intel and Quanta on the Open Compute Project, and is also working with Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Rackspace, Skype and Zynga on new designs

The bare-boned boxes may not be much to look at -- Facebook calls the design "vanity free" -- but they get the job done. Citing a standard measurement of data center efficiency, the Power Usage Effectiveness rating, Facebook says that Prineville is a 1.07. That's far below -- and therefore much more efficient -- than the industry standard of around 1.5.

Facebook's servers are about 6 pounds lighter but thicker than a typical 1U (1.75 inch) rack-mounted system. At about 1.5U thick (2.6 inches), they can squeeze in taller heatsinks with more surface area and larger, more efficient fans. That, in turn, means that less air has to be pumped through the servers to cool them. And they can be opened and serviced without tools -- snaps and spring-loaded plungers hold everything in place.

There is one luxury in the vanity-free design. Blue LED lights, which give Prineville a Facebook look, glow in the data center. They cost 5 cents more per light than the cheapest alternative.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicessocial networkinginternetFacebook

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?