July 15, 2013

On June 14, the first phases of Facebook's first data center outside the U.S. went live in Lulea, Sweden. With approximately 80 percent of Facebook's 1.11 billion users residing outside the U.S. and Canada, the new data center is now handling status updates, comments, likes, and more from around the world.

Located on the edge of the Arctic Circle, nearly the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska, the seaside town of Lulea is a near-perfect location for the new sustainable data center. Facebook's super-efficient design uses 100 percent outside air to cool the data center, eliminating the need for power-hungry chillers, to cool the tens of thousands of servers running around the clock.

Powered locally by hydroelectric energy, the facility "is likely to be one of the most efficient and sustainable data centers in the world." Hydroelectricity is not only 100 percent renewable; it’s so reliable that Facebook has been able to eliminate the number of onsite backup generators by 70 percent.

Another unique design feature of the facility is that it uses excess heat generated from the servers to keep the office space warm for employees during those chilly days in the artic.

Built in a tri-venture with DPR Construction, NCC Construction Sweden and Fortis Construction, the 290,000-sq.-ft. data center is not Facebook's first ground-up facility to be built on a greenfield site. DPR and Fortis are currently wrapping-up the latest phases of construction for Facebook's first two super-efficient data centers, built in Prineville, Oregon and Forest City, North Carolina. Both data centers use 100 percent outdoor air for cooling and are being built to LEED Gold for New Construction specifications.

As with Facebook's first two greenfield data centers, the company is using servers and infrastructure design outlined in the now well-known Open Compute Project, an initiative started by Facebook "that aims to accelerate data center and server innovation while increasing computing efficiency through collaboration on relevant best practices and technical specifications."

Facebook custom-designed their own servers, power supplies, and UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) units, and is sharing these designs online, free for anyone to use in their own data center. Facebook’s data centers--using their "vanity free" servers--are 38 percent more efficient and 24 percent less expensive to build and run than the leased capacity they relied on before their Prineville data center launched.

During initial tests, the Sweden data center averaged a PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) of 1.07, which makes this one of the most efficient data centers in the world. For context, a PUE of 2.0 is considered "common", 1.6 is considered "good", and a PUE of 1.2 or under is "excellent". It is important to note that PUE is dynamic and changes with outdoor temperature and humidity.

Facebook will soon be launching a real-time PUE monitor, so anyone can see how the facility is performing on a minute-by-minute basis. Water Usage Efficiency (WUE) will also be viewable on the online dashboard, a topic of growing interest in the data center industry. Online dashboards for the Prineville, OR and Forest City, NC sites are currently online.

Impressive, to say the least. The future of data center design is unfolding right before our eyes.