Facebook Data Center Efficiency Reaches New Levels

Mike Allen
October 21, 2013

"Facebook is one of the biggest companies on the planet, largely due to its popular social sharing network. In fact, as of June 2013, monthly active users of Facebook reached 1.15 billion people. However, Facebook has also hit the news circuits recently for developments in the data center realm, making headlines with the recent construction of its Nordic data center that utilizes natural cooling methods to reach new levels of efficiency.

Facebook is far from done making news in the Internet and data center scenes, however. In cooperation with Qualcomm and Ericsson, Facebook launched Internet.org in August, an initiative aimed at delivering affordable Internet access to the globe.

“Today, the Internet isn’t accessible for two thirds of the world,” reads Internet.org’s mission statement. “Imagine a world where it connects us all.”

This message is in line with what thousands of companies are realizing: The Internet is essential to survival in the increasingly competitive and tech-savvy business environment. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been especially vocal on the topic of connectivity, writing on Facebook that while more than 1 billion people are connected through the social network, it is necessary to start thinking about connecting the other 5 billion people in the world. In order to do this, Internet access is key.

“[I]’ll share a rough proposal for how we can connect the next 5 billion people, and a rough plan to work together as an industry to get there,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We’ll discuss how we can make Internet access more affordable by making it more efficient to deliver data, how we can use less data by improving the efficiency of the apps we build and how we can help businesses drive Internet access by developing a new model to get people online.”

Data Center Efficiency: Key to Widespread Internet Access
According to the Internet.org coalition, there are three essential components of connecting the remaining two-thirds of the population: making access more affordable, using data more efficiently and helping businesses drive access. Facebook, together with Qualcomm and Ericsson, recently released a white paper about the importance of efficiency when it comes to furthering the goal of widespread connectivity. The companies explained that the paper was produced as a way of making a small contribution to the many businesses and innovators constantly working toward efficiency gains. While Facebook may not offer colocation services, its dedication to improving efficiency and providing Internet access to all can provide numerous notable lessons for businesses to emulate.

Providing universal Internet access will ultimately come down to infrastructure. While the white paper covered many components of efficiency such as application development, a significant amount of attention was given to data center infrastructure. Facebook itself did not begin building its own data centers until 2009, but today they have two operational facilities and another in the works in the United States, as well as the fourth data center in Sweden.. The company made the decision to build its own data centers after realizing that it was the only way it could effectively ensure efficient and sustainable operations in the long-term. According to the company, its first data center in Prineville, Ore., built on its own designs went active in April 2011 and resulted in a 38 percent boost in energy efficiency and 24 percent cut in operating costs.

“We designed and built our servers, software, power supplies and data centers in tandem from start to finish to achieve maximum efficiency,” the white paper stated. “The efficiency gains we’ve achieved have been made possible by three core areas of innovation: cooling, power management, and ‘vanity free’ server design.”

Facebook takes an innovative approach to cooling, using outside air economization, which filters outside air and channels it toward the servers. Air is then either re-circulated or pushed outside the facility once more. On occasions when outside air is not cool enough, Facebook uses either a direct ECH misting system or wetted media to provide extra cooling to the outside air. The white paper explained that this added step drops the air temperature by changing liquid water to vapor in the direct path that the air takes from supplies to the data hall. However, because of the optimally positioned data center locations, direct evaporative cooling is only needed for roughly 6 percent of the year, as the cooler climates enable air economization to be an effective cooling mechanism for the large majority of the year."



    Mike Allen

    "Facebook is one of the biggest companies on the planet, largely due to its popular social sharing network. In fact, as of June 2013, monthly active users of Facebook reached 1.15 billion people. However, Facebook has also hit the news circuits recently for developments in the data center realm, making ...

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