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Intelligent Machines

Inside Facebook’s Not-So-Secret New Data Center

Facebook is giving away the blueprints for what should be the most efficient data center ever built.

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Facebook is giving away its blueprint so to encourage open collaboration and thus make the Internet more energy-efficient. While Web firms such as Google and Microsoft invest a lot in improving data-center efficiency, they keep their designs a closely guarded secret.

The new data center, in Prineville, Oregon, covers 147,000 square feet and is one of the most energy-efficient computing warehouses ever built. The building is carefully positioned so that, during both winter and summer, prevailing winds deliver air to the intake vent seen here along the building’s side.

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The Prineville facility contains storage and computing capacity equivalent to roughly half of what Facebook already has today. The company has more than 500 million members who upload 100 million photos a day, and make 18,000 comments every second.

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Facebook’s engineers designed a new type of server from scratch. Components can be snapped onto the circuit board like Legos, making assembly and maintenance less time-consuming.

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The blue cabinet at the center of this photo is a battery store that will provide power for a minute and a half to the three racks of computers next to it if the mains power fails—the time it usually takes for backup generators to kick in. Most data centers have a dedicated room packed with enough batteries for the entire building. Using many smaller battery packs like this one saves energy because they can share the power connections of the computers around them.

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On the second story of the building, air enters through vents (left) and passes through filters (right) that remove dust.

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Filtered air then heads for a bank of water sprays (right), where it is cooled down by evaporation. The sprays switch on and off so that water is only delivered when the humidity or temperature of the air needs to be altered. This cooling system is considerably more energy-efficient than using electricity-hungry chillers—the conventional approach.

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The sprays wet a foam-like barrier; the air that moves through it is cooled by evaporating some of the water.

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Fans dump hot air, rising from the computers below, to the outside. Some air is diverted to warm the offices in the building, so as not to waste the “free” heat.

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