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Facebook Turns Light Green, Open Sources Its Data Center

Facebook has been quietly working on building an energy-efficient data center at the lowest possible cost for a year or two

Facebook has been quietly working on building an energy-efficient data center at the lowest possible cost for a year or two and Thursday it open sourced the infrastructure it created under what it calls the Open Compute Project, figuring that many eyes might improve on it.

"We are not the only ones who need the kind of hardware that we are building out," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

The company wasn't getting what it needed from the OEMs so it designed the thing from the ground up and wound up building its own stripped-down Intel and AMD servers, power supplies, server racks and battery backup systems.

Its approach meant it had total control over every part of the system from the software on up and that meant it could use a 480-volt electrical distribution system to reduce energy loss; remove anything in the servers that didn't contribute to efficiency; reuse hot aisle air in winter to heat its offices; and eliminate the need for a central uninterruptible power supply.

As a result it claims its soon-to-open data center in Prineville, Oregon, is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other state-of-the-art data centers. It's also supposed to support more Facebook users and offer them real-time social experiences - such as the ability to read comments as they are written or see friends of friends appear dynamically as the user searches.

The facility is reportedly fetching a PUE of 1.07, which is below the EPA-defined state-of-the-art industry average of 1.5 and means 93% of the energy from the grid makes it into every so-called Open Compute server.

It's eliminated centralized chillers and 480V-to-208V transformation. It says Ethernet-powered LED lighting and its passive cooling infrastructure cut the energy spent on running the facility further.

The servers it designed reportedly use 22% fewer materials and are 1.5U high to accommodate taller heat sinks and larger fans. The power supplies, evidently from HP, are reportedly 94.5% efficient.

Thursday it released the specifications and mechanical drawings covering its motherboards, power supply, server chassis, server racks and battery cabinets. It's also sharing its data center electrical and mechanical construction specifications.

Greenpeace, a critic of Facebook's piggish energy use, says efficiency isn't enough. It needs to tap clean, renewable energy sources instead of coal.

Facebook worked with Alfa Tech, AMD, Delta, Intel, Power-One and Quanta to develop the first generation of the technologies used and is working with Dell, HP, Rackspace, Skype and Zynga on its next generation. Apparently it's not thinking of using ARM.

It says it's already talking to its peers about how they can work together on Open Compute Project technology. Competitors were seen at its announcement.

See the server specs and mechanical designs and the data center specs and mechanical designs.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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