Tens of thousands of energy-efficient servers handle the deluge of data generated by more than 800 million users.
Call it the heart of Facebook. Take an unusual peek inside one of the world’s largest data centers, Facebook’s monster server farm that opened in April 2011 in the remote desert town of Prineville, Ore., 150 miles east of Portland.
A torrent of data from Facebook’s 800 million-plus customers worldwide flows through the servers inside this critical piece of the world’s computing infrastructure. And like Facebook itself, the place is expanding like crazy.
Like kids in a candy shop: Facebook invited a team from Intel’s server group to take an inside look at Facebook’s first built-from-scratch data center. (Facebook had previously leased space from others.) For 18 months, Intel engineers worked with Facebook to design super-efficient custom server board designs for the new facility.
“The collaborative effort pushed Intel to deliver technology for greater efficiency, which will ultimately benefit … data centers across the globe,” said Jason Waxman, a general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group.
Like! Facebook engineer Joshua Crass holds up a server board he and his team installed at the new data center. The exact number of dual-socket boards is proprietary, but it’s “many tens of thousands.”
Facebook has another center under construction in North Carolina and has announced plans for a second data center building on the 127-acre Prineville campus. The company has also started construction on a new facility in Lulea, Sweden, that will be powered primarily by renewable energy sources.
Intel’s Ray Sardo worked closely with engineers at Facebook to help custom design the server boards and server racks that arrived in Prineville by the truckload every day as the data center was starting up.
“This is the future of data centers,” Ray said, adding that a key reason is the efficiency of Intel processors. “There’s no need for expensive raised floors to accommodate sophisticated cross-ventilation systems,” he said as an example. “Build a large retail box-store kind of building with a concrete pad and you’re good to go.”
For Facebook, energy efficiency and operational efficiency are extremely important. An Intel server unloaded from a truck can be online within just a few hours. If there happens to be any issues later, Facebook engineers can swap in a new motherboard in just 8 minutes. And they can replace a memory stick in precisely 38 seconds.
Inside Facebook’s Prineville data center, you can literally feel the energy efficiency of the processors with your hands. Intel’s Sven Haugan (right) and Ritchie Rice are standing inside what is sometimes called the “hot aisle” of a server room — the back of the racks where fans vent warm (or even hot) air from inside each server.
Facebook officials estimate that by using energy-efficient processors — and by adopting a variety of other energy-conservation steps — this data center uses 38 percent less energy than its leased facilities.
Facebook’s Prineville data center covers a sprawling 150,000 square feet, and is projected to double in size to 300,000 square feet — big enough to house five American football fields.