As you may have heard, Facebook is about to turn on power to its newest and nicest data center yet. Here’s the kicker: It’s in Prineville, Oregon. That’s around 150 miles East of Corvallis, or 150 miles Southeast from Portland. Also known as field-trip distance, maybe, for a lot of schools.
What makes it news, besides the fact that Facebook is almost the biggest thing on the internet (Alexa is the standard for rating websites; if you’re in to web design, get to know this place), is the fact that Facebook has decided to make the entire project open source.
This is Facebook’s first custom-built data center—that means they had complete control over every aspect of its construction. Engineers working for Facebook designed this place to be very energy efficient, and very fast. (Consider that Facebook has 500,000,000 active users and yet your status update is viewable to your friends “seconds” after you post it.) The official statement of purpose is that Facebook wants to help make the internet more efficient. That is, it should use less energy and it should be get more work done faster.
To do that, a project was created called the Open Compute Project (link to their website; cool video on the front page). The data sheets and designs are available on the site for free.
It’s a bit of a trick though; Facebook didn’t release the software they’re using (probably customized Linux and Apache builds, as most big-time servers use these). And software is where it’s really at, because good hardware and bad software is still very inefficient. But this can be justified by saying they can’t release their software for fear of hackers breaking into their servers.
In any case, it’s pretty big news because even the hardware specs of most data centers are closely-kept secrets. That this stuff was released is a great gesture for improving the quality of the internet, and even gives amateurs a chance to help—anyone can look at their designs and suggest improvements.
- CNET article
- TechnologyReview article
- Facebook Blog Post
- Edit: WIRED added a detailed tour of the Prineville data center (on 1 December, 2011).