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Facebook 'open sources' custom server and data center designs

The last rule of Google 'Fight Club'

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The chill in Mountain View

Google is currently operating a chiller-less data center in Belgium, and Microsoft is building one in Ireland. But these are a tad different. Microsoft is using Direct eXpansion (DX) cooling – similar to traditional air conditioning – while it seems that Google uses a software system that automatically shifts loads to other data centers when outside temperature get too high. The system is called Spanner, and though Google has been coy about its use of Spanner, the company has publicly presented a paper on the platform.

Facebook is building a second custom-built data center in western North Carolina, where local tax breaks have made it data-center hot spot housing several big names, including Google and Apple. The weather in North Carolina is less temperate, so the company may have to make changes to its cooling systems. And Heiliger told us that the company is already making changes to its hardware designs for use in the North Carolina facility.

There have been rumblings that Facebook would switch to ARM servers or other "massively multi-core" server designs, but Heiliger indicated to us that there are no definite plans to do so. But he did say that the company is always evaluating new designs.

Facebook data center - interior, lit up

Well, the racks are modular...(click to enlarge)

The company is not using the sort of modular data center design popularized by Google and picked up by the likes of Microsoft. Google has long used such designs, and it has long built its own servers. The company did reveal some of its designs in the spring of 2009, but this was years after the fact – and these were apparently not its latest designs.

Heiliger's "Fight Club" line was surely aimed at Google. When we asked Heiliger about Facebook's decision to release its server and data-center designs, he equated the decision to open sourcing back-end software, an area in which Facebook is also putting Google to a certain amount of shame.

"We think the bigger value comes back to us over time," he told us, "just as it did with open source software. Many people will now be looking at our designs. This is a 1.0. We hope this will accelerate what everyone is doing." ®

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