Facebook shares its data-center secrets

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

By , IDG News Service |  Data Center, Facebook

Facebook Founder & Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, launches Facebook's "open compute program" at Facebook's headquarters in Palo Alto, California April 7, 2011.

Image credit: REUTERS/Norbert von der Groeben

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% more efficient than the servers we were buying previously," said Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of technical operations at Facebook. They also cost 24% 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

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