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Facebook’s Open Source Green Machines

Wow! Can it be? Has Zuckerberg and Facebook actually done something ethical, on their own, without any pressure from outside forces? For the moment the answer would seem to be affirmative, but I’m not quite willing to trust this one yet. Experience teaches me that Zuckerberg’s moral compass sometimes turns north into south.

What I’m talking about is the new 150,000 square foot server farm that Facebook has opened in Prineville, Oregon. It seems that in building this facility, Facebook’s developers have tweeked, tweeked, and tweeked again to come up with a data center that’s extremely green, as in environment not as in golf course.

For starters, the facility is a whopping 38% more energy efficient than older FB data centers, and the custom servers, which use custom motherboards with either AMD or Intel processors, cost 24% less than branded servers. The servers were designed by Facebook in conjunction with Quanta.

The power savings come from several angles. To begin with, the building is designed with a high efficiency evaporative cooling system which sips electricity. In addition, the facility realizes substantial savings from the design of the power distribution network. There’s more, like power supplies that are 93% efficient, but we won’t go into that here. Suffice it to say, these impressive energy savings mostly seem to be the result of tweek on top of tweek – and in the end, it’s all paid off.

Unless you’re one of those people who actually dreams of having a nuclear power plant in your backyard, Facebook’s ability to get many more miles-per-gallon from their server fleet is, in itself, a good thing. But wait, there’s more: Facebook announced on Thursday that they’re making their server technology open source through the Open Compute Project.

Already, the server industry seems to be taking note. Dell evidently already contributed some work to the project, and though HP and Zynga seems to be taking a wait-and-see attitude, Rackspace has already said they’ll use Open Compute servers in their own designs. The fact that Open Compute designs are being released under a BSD-like license that doesn’t require changes to be given back to the community might help the project take hold. The question remains, will server designers be willing to give back, which will be essential if the Open Compute Project is to be more than merely a flash memory.

Again, I’m waiting for Zuckerberg to figure out a way to screw this up. Until he does, I’m clicking the “like” button.

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