Article

04/28/11

Facebook Shares Energy-Efficient Innovations

The Open Compute Project

Among the world’s largest websites – like Google, YouTube and Amazon – data center design is a well-guarded secret. But this month, one major industry player opened its doors and uploaded its custom designs for the sake of energy efficiency: Facebook, an Alliance Associate, launched the Open Compute Project to share its innovations in data server efficiency with the world. Since its unveiling, Open Compute has connected server technicians, business leaders and computer enthusiasts from around the globe to advance energy efficiency. Within two weeks of the project's launch, more than 700 people have begun participating in online discussions and information sharing at the Open Compute Facebook Group.

Partners in the Open Compute Project include Alliance Associates Dell and Intel, as well as other major industry players such as HP, Skype, Zynga and the U.S. Department of Energy.

 

Efficiency Through Openness

The Open Compute model takes the concept of “open source” from the software world and applies it, for the first time, to computer hardware. At OpenCompute.org Facebook offers the designs and specifications of its data center’s systems, allowing others to replicate the hardware and innovate it further. But the key to the project, as with Facebook, is community.

Facebook's server room

“Like many open efforts, we feel individuals can make very important contributions. We really hope anyone can benefit from being involved, by learning about the industry and technology, and making great contributions,” a Facebook representative told the Alliance.

The project has three goals:

  • Facebook is seeking feedback on ways to further improve its designs
  • Facebook wants companies to take its technologies and adapt them to their own needs to make their systems more energy efficient
  • Facebook hopes others will adopt its model of sharing hardware designs to advance best practices in the world of data centers

Building a Better Server

The Open Compute Project is an extension of Facebook’s ongoing data efficiency efforts at its Prineville, Ore., data center. Facebook set out to create the most efficient data center possible, and at the lowest cost. Through this initiative, the company developed servers that are 38% more energy efficient than the industry standard and cost 24% less to build – largely by eliminating the unnecessary components of the hardware and improving system-wide thermal and electrical design. Innovations include a custom power supply, rack enclosure, server chassis and two sets of custom motherboards. These developments show that greater data center energy efficiency is not only possible – it’s also profitable.

“If a quarter of the data center capacity in the U.S. were built on Open Compute Project specifications,” says Facebook, “it would save enough energy to power more than 160,000 homes.” By sharing its designs, Facebook hopes to multiply the energy benefits of its work.

Join Facebook

Facebook's custom energy efficient motherboard

Facebook is inviting members of the efficiency and data center community to join the data center discussion by providing feedback and sharing technology at the Open Compute Facebook Group and OpenCompute.org. Technical specifications and CAD drawing of the server and data center technology are also available at OpenCompute.org.

The Open Compute team is currently working on the next steps to release more detailed and transparent information about its efficient data center design, as well as to increase involvement and partnerships among other tech-driven organizations and individuals.