Facebook introduces “open data center”.

Facebook opens its data center design to encourage low cost copycats.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, noting that he developed Facebook’s software by using open-source software, has published Facebook’s newest data center design so that it can be copied by others. This new data center will open next month in rural Prineville, Orgeon.

MIT reports on the 147,000 square foot open design in two April 7 articles: Inside Facebook’s Not-So-Secret New Data Center and Facebook Opens Up Its Hardware Secrets.

It sounds like an innovative design. They run 3-phase 480/277 Volt electrical power directly to each server, to reduce step-down transformer losses. (This is very unconventional: I’ve never heard of it being done before.) They claim that each server’s power supply has an efficiency of 94%! They cool the servers by using prevailing winds and evaporative water cooling. (This is reminiscent of the whole-house coolers seen in relatively low-humidity Kansas.)

They use a power line reactor to condition incoming power and correct power factor. (This will lower utility costs.) Apparently there’s a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) using 48 VDC batteries, which are much better than 12 VDC batteries for each row of server racks. Lighting is provided by LEDs that are supplied by power over Ethernet. (I want to see this!)

Read about the ground-up data center design and construction in this Facebook engineering note. Be sure to watch the video. This is a startling statement: “The result is that our Prineville data center uses 38 percent less energy to do the same work as Facebook’s existing facilities, while costing 24 percent less.” This summarizes why opening your designs makes sense: “opening the technology means the community will make advances that we wouldn’t have discovered if we had kept it secret.

I applaud Mr. Zuckerberg and Facebook. Microsoft, Google, and other data center owners jealously guard their data center details. (Occasionally, information leaks out. Read What exactly is inside a Google data center?) Mr. Zuckerberg points out that there’s no reason to be so secretive: Why not allow the world to benefit from your data center design innovations?

Share this design

A project to open data center design, opencompute.org, plans to open the inner workings and hidden mechanisms of data centers so that anyone may use those designs. (The site contains Facebook’s design specs in PDF files that may be downloaded.) I think that this is great. Let’s hope that this trend continues throughout the computing hardware AND software realms. I hope that proprietary accounting software will be replaced soon by open-source accounting software. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Facebook’s Open compute servers

Above photos & notations: Lance Albertson


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