Facebook is finally building its own data centre in Asia, located in Singapore, where it is investing more than S$1.4 billion (US$1.02 billion) in the facility.
Spanning 170,000 square metres, the new site will rise 11 storeys and be the social media company's only owned and constructed data centre in the region, where it primarily has leased or operated from points of presence. It runs 15 other data centres worldwide, mostly in the US and European markets such as Ireland and Sweden.
The Singapore site would be its first to feature the StatePoint Liquid Cooling system, which was co-developed by Facebook and Nortek Air Solutions, and touted to minimise water and energy consumption. In climates such as Singapore's, Facebook said, the technology was estimated to slash the amount of ground water used by 20 percent.
Like its global counterparts, the local data centre will be fully powered by renewable energy and also is expected to clock an annual Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.19, which assesses how much electricity used at a site ends up powering its servers.
The building will comprise perforated material to ease air flow, said Facebook, which has engaged Fortis Construction as the general contractor.
Expected to be operational from 2022, the Singapore data centre will host the videos and photos Facebook users see on their feed each day, according to Thomas Furlong, Facebook's vice president of infrastructure data centres.
Construction would continue after the first phase in 2022 and likely take several more years to fully complete, depending on how fast construction work was, said Furlong, who was speaking at the launch Thursday.
He said the site would begin operations at 30 megawatts and continue to expand its capacity in a "phased approach" towards its peak of 150 megawatts.
While Facebook's data centres did not necessarily serve consumers specific to where these facilities were located, typically, they would support users nearest to its location, he noted.
He added that there currently were no plans to build other sites in Asia, but said the company continuously was assessing such needs based on infrastructure requirements.
Furlong said "thousands of construction" jobs would be involved to build the Singapore data centre as well as "hundreds of operators" required to maintain the local facility, including technical, logistics, and security administrators.
The new site is at Tanjong Kling, located in the western part of Singapore, and in an area formerly known as Data Centre Park.
Describing the move as a "significant milestone" for Singapore, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said Facebook's investment was indicative of the city-state's ability to "transcend" constraints related to its size and geographical location.
Chan said the country had addressed these challenges by building up its connectivity to the rest of the world, previously focusing on boosting traditional transport links of air, land, and sea. With technology, this had expanded to "non-physical dimensions" to include finance and data, he said, pointing to the need to support key data components such as storage, analytics, processing, security, and intellectual property rights protection.
Specifically, in terms of data storage, the Singapore minister noted that the country neither had the land nor energy that other cities could offer. This underscored the importance of attaining higher efficiencies in operations and power consumption, he added, lauding Facebook's focus on minimising its data centre's use of energy, water, and land.
According to Furlong, Singapore was selected for its robust infrastructure, access to fibre connectivity, business-friendly environment, and local talent.
Google just last month revealed it was building its third data centre in Singapore to support growing online consumption in Southeast Asia. The move pushed its overall investment in such facilities in the country to US$850 million.
Asia currently is home to Facebook's largest user population, totalling an estimated 828 million monthly active users. Globally, it has 2.23 billion monthly active users.
In March this year, Facebook was amongst several social media and tech companies questioned by a Singapore parliamentary committee over their policies and role in managing "deliberate online falsehoods". The social media company's Asia-Pacific vice-president of public policy, Simon Milner, described the session as a "tough Q&A" with Singapore's Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.
In the weeks following the Cambridge Analytics scandal, Facebook said some 1.17 million Facebook accounts in the Philippines and 1.1 million in Indonesia were amongst those which data might have been inappropriately shared. The two Asian countries were the top three, including the US, most affected in the global breach, during which another 532,455 in India, 427,446 in Vietnam, and 311,127 in Australia were impacted.