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Facebook offers its datacentre technology to world

Open Compute Project chops power use and cost

Facebook has worked out how datacentres can be made more energy efficient and cheaper to run and wants the world to embrace its insights on an open source basis, the company has announced.

Explaining the rationale for what the company calls the Open Compute Project, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that that the company had become convinced of the need to iron out traditional inefficiencies from its datacentres during its recent period of hypergrowth.

The fruits of that are now incorporated into a new data centre in Prineville Oregon in which the company has put to work a range of innovations that start from the smallest motherboard component.

A small team of Facebook engineers had started from scratch, building a new 'vanity free' server motherboard which stripped out unnecessary components and a custom-made and highly-efficient power supply. Each server slips in an out its 1U rack like a dinner tray.

The Prineville datacentre itself is cooled entirely using passively circulated air - no air conditioning is involved - and without ducting. In the winter it is heated using recovered heat, the company said.

The only concession to fashion was that the chief designer took the decision to use more expensive blue LEDs in order to bathe the datacentre's server farms in a cool blue light.

According to Facebook, using the Open Compute technology reduced typical datacentre power loss from layers of electrical systems from between 11 and 17 percent to only 2 percent.

But why is the company investing money in datacentre design and offering to share the innovations more widely under an Open Web Foundation license?

According to Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook VP of technical operations, the industry needed to "stop treating datacentres like fight club," and demystify ideas that would underpin the next generation of cloud computing innovation. Open Compute would be Facebook's way of contributing to this.

By setting standards Facebook will also become more influential in the hardware technologies on which its growth depends which in turn bolsters its ambition to become a software and services platform beyond its social networking heartland. In Web 2.0, it turns out, hardware still matters.

During the launch event, a number of partners that have contributed ideas were given a platform, including Dell, Rackspace Intel and even HP, which will have watched the disconcerting growth of the social networking gorilla from its HQ across the street. The US Government was also present to endorse the benefits of Open Compute for the public sector.

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