Want to be as energy-efficient as Facebook? There's a spec for that

Summary:It's no secret that Greenpeace has been kinda upset with Facebook ever since the giant Web application company announced its plans to build two massive new data centers, with what the non-profit organization viewed as little regard for the power-generation methods behind the massive amount of electricity needed to power the social network's server farms.

It's no secret that Greenpeace has been kinda upset with Facebook ever since the giant Web application company announced its plans to build two massive new data centers, with what the non-profit organization viewed as little regard for the power-generation methods behind the massive amount of electricity needed to power the social network's server farms.

While Facebook still hasn't said much about who or what is behind its data center power plugs, the company moved very publicly today to address the energy efficiency of its data centers.

Through its relationships with company including Advanced Micro Devices, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Intel, Facebook has created something called the Open Compute Project. The intention of this initiative is to share energy-efficiency best practices and design techniques. The project's philosophy is being applied first at Facebook's new data center in Prineville, Ore., which the company says will use 38 percent less energy than existing facilities. The data center will operate with a power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio of 1.07, compared with the 1.5 for other Facebook data centers. The video explains the project in more detail:

Facebook is publishing all the technical specifications for the new data center -- including the power distribution system, servers, rack design, building design and uninterruptible power supplies -- so that others can use them for their own online business operations.

What's more, two companies -- Dell Data Center Solutions and technology distributor Synnex -- will be happy to build servers to those specifications for other online businesses. Just think, you too can have a data center just like Facebook's!

Seriously, despite all the flap it has taken -- and continues to take -- from Greenpeace, Facebook figures that other cloud service providers could benefit from its best practices.

Said Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of Facebook's technical operations:

"Facebook and our development partners have invested tens of millions of dollars over the past two years to build upon industry specifications to create the most efficient computing infrastructure possible. These advancements are good for Facebook, but we think they could benefit all companies. .... We think it's time to demystify the biggest capital expense of an online business -- the infrastructure."

So, is Greenpeace any happier with Facebook after today's proclamation. Eh, not really.

Here's the statement it just issued, while calling for Facebook to announce plans to phase out its use of coal-generated power by Earth Day on April 22. The statement is attributed to Greenpeace's climate campaigner, Casey Harrell:

"It's commendable that Facebook is working to increase the energy efficiency of its business, and specifically its data centers -- an area of neglect for many years. But as the global warming footprint of the IT industry and Facebook specifically, continues to grow significantly, a focus on energy efficiency alone will only slow the speeding train of unsustainable emissions growth. Efficiency is not enough."

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Topics: Storage, Data Centers, Hardware, Social Enterprise

About

Heather Clancy is an award-winning business journalist specializing in transformative technology and innovation. Her articles have appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, The International Herald Tribune and The New York Times. In a past corporate life, Heather was editor of Computer Reseller News. She started her journalism lif... Full Bio

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