Facebook open sources the data center

Facebook's Prineville Oregon data center

To figure out how to most efficiently handle the massive amount of traffic to Facebook and its related pages, a team of just three engineers working for the popular social network designed a new style of servers and power management systems and a new data center architecture. This became Facebook's Prineville, Oregon data center.

On Thursday, Facebook debuted the Open Compute Project which open sourced all the data center and server designs that its Prineville team created.

This means all of the hardware design specs from that data center: motherboards, power supplies, server chassis, server racks, and battery cabinets, are all available to view and copy at opencompute.org.

The idea is to spread the use of more efficient and reliable servers, to reduce overall energy loss and eliminate the need for an uninterruptible power supply. Facebook says its Prineville data center can do the same amount of work as its other data centers, while using 38% less energy, and costing 24% less money.

The server units themselves are no frills and all function. The chassis is steel plated with zinc, there are no internal screws, and there is no front panel. The team stripped out everything except what was absolutely necessary and made extra room for heat sinks. The chassis is actually built about 50% taller than servers commonly are to incorporate the bigger heat sinks, and there are four fans. The power supply accepts both standard AC current and DC battery backup power. Quanta designed two different motherboard configurations for these servers: one with dual Intel Xeon 5500 or 5600 processors, and one with dual AMD Magny-Cours 12 or 8-core processors.

In addition to Quanta, Facebook's engineers worked with AMD, Intel, Power-One, and Alfa Tech to create these first generation server designs. Dell, HP, Rackspace, Skype, Zynga, and others have joined onto the project and are contributing to the next generation designs. So just because these designs are free and open source does not mean they were created by amateurs.

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