|Facebook, the company that revolutionised social networking on the Internet, now wants a say in computer hardware as well. It has joined hands with companies like Hewlett Packard, Dell, Advanced Micro Devices and Intel to launch the “Open Compute Project”. On Thursday morning, at its headquarters in Palo Alto, California, the social networking giant open sourced the specifications and design documents for the custom-built servers, power supplies, racks, battery backup systems and other equipments used at its new Prineville, Oregon data centre.”It’s time to stop treating data centre design like Fight Club and demystify the way these things are built,” said Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of technical operations at Facebook. The move is in stark contrast to search giant Google, famously secretive about its latest data centre and server designs.
The project aims to offer specifications and designs for more power-efficient computers that are specifically geared toward running Internet services, shared openly with other companies.
“What we learned as we transitioned from being a small start-up, one office in a garage—to where we are today—a slightly bigger start-up, is that there are a couple of ways you can go about designing data centres and servers. You can build them yourselves and work with ODMs (original design manufacturers) or you can basically get whatever the products are that the mass manufacturers of servers put out. We found the mass manufacturers weren’t in line with what we needed and what social apps need,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the event.
By launching the Open Compute Project and sharing design specifications, he hoped to increase availability and demand for the specialised servers.
Dell will build servers based on those technical specifications, while Synnex will act as overall vendor for the systems. The technology will power servers in the company’s first custom-built data centre, in Oregon.
A CNET report explains: “The project includes all the specs, schematics, and basic instructions for building a data centre and the servers inside them in the style of Facebook, which needs lots of computing power for its 500 million users sharing pictures, links, and messages in real time…The big things that set apart Facebook’s data centre design is that there’s no air conditioning, which sucks extra power, in their data centre. Instead there’s a water-misting system for cooling and the hot air coming off the servers is recycled for heating attached buildings. The data centre also uses 480-volt electrical distribution centres throughout.”
The new servers, according to Facebook, are 38 per cent more energy efficient than the ones they were buying and cost 24 per cent less than off-the-shelf products used to power its service.