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Friday, October 28, 2011

Face Book opens its Data centre closer to Arctic circle.

Intelligent people learn from other’s experience ! – the recent outage of Blackberry was a testament to the damage that can occur to those who are over reliant on specified places.  When we had only hard copies filed, it required voluminous storage space; huge record rooms were the order of the day and it required efficient systems to have retrieval of files and data contained in them..  then such storage was outsourced.. now a days you have most of the data in e-form.. still they have to be stored, maintained and mined.

For millions life starts everyday with Facebook – they log in, read, post messages and live in FB.  This social networking site launched in 2004 reportedly has more than 800 M active users.  Officially, one has to be 13+ for having a FB account, though there could be high no. of children less that age accessing it daily.  
Every day, millions of such users post messages, post photos, add links, videos and more and sure that collates into huge chunk of data. There have to be Servers and Storage medium enabling retention and access by all users.  Technically, Data Centre is a facility that houses Computer systems, associated components and storage systems.  It generally includes backup power supplies, redundant data connections, and security devices also.   For any Company, IT operations are a crucial aspect of its organizational requirements, the crucial aspect being business continuity.  Without the system and the data contained, the operations would be impaired and to minimize the chances of disruption, there have to be sufficient back-up preferably at different places.  The Data Centre has to be of high integrity and functionality.  

If this be the requirement of any Company, just imagine how many servers should something like Facebook have ?

A couple of years back, it was speculated that FB was having 30000 servers supporting its operations.  A high ranking official was quoted at that time as saying that the no. will be different today than yesterday as FB adds capacity on daily basis.  That placed FB among the largest  Internet companies that have publicly discussed their server counts, and Companies have to loan millions for such augmentation of resources.  Besides lakhs of photos, there are volumes of data required to be stored and delivered instantaneously.  FB reportedly had been making huge investments in locking down large chunk of data centre space.  

FB has grown in a big way since…. FB as also many of hi-tech companies have been thinking on how such big data can be handled with low-cost computing centers.  Few months ago, FB announced of their plans of associations with industry heavyweights on developing server and data centre designs for FB.   Then they described the Company’s progress on ‘Open Compute Project’ – often used to describe software.  The new data center,  is touted to be green as largely would  be fueled by hydropower, and is to be in  Lulea, Sweden, just south of the Arctic Circle.  There are reports that FB is steering this project and other partners are stepping up to add guidance.  In a recent Open Compute Summit, executives from Dell, Amazon.com and Intel took the stage to discuss how openly rethinking data centers can help major companies, as well as startups and medium-sized businesses that need efficient and flexible systems. By launching the Open Compute Project as a stand-alone foundation, Facebook is hoping to further standardize the market for data center equipment, thereby reducing costs and vendor lock-in.

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ and the speed of growth of FB has pushed it to building its own servers making it a better viable option.   The others who had grown tremendously in the market such as Google went the same way of building their own servers.  Such big market players cannot afford to rely on a single vendor to solve hardware or software issues.  With their volumes they can decide on designing their hardware and server needs, picking up the best off the shelf products and adding unique features suppliant to their environment.   The other side of this, they are reinventing and could be away from the changes in the market after making too heavy a investment on their designed equipments.  There is also the apprehension that this will expose them to potential eavesdropping from a Swedish intelligence agency, according to Sweden's Pirate Party, a group opposing government interference with the Internet. Facebook is facing its own privacy concerns in Europe over how long it retains users' information and other issues.

The new centre first outside US is  proposed at Swedish city of Lulea, 100 km south of Arctic circle due to the access to renewable energy and cold climate.  This centre is touted to be the largest of its kind in Europe and is to handle all data processing from Europe, the Middle East and Africa and serve millions of the site's 800m users. The Lulea data center, which will consist of three 300,000-square foot (28,000-square meter) server buildings, is scheduled for completion by 2014. The site will need 120 MW of energy, fully derived from hydropower.

 It will cover 30,000 sq m – about the size of 11 football pitches – and be fully packed with data servers. In case of a blackout, construction designs call for each building to have 14 backup diesel generators with a total output of 40 MW.   Each of Facebook's US datacentres is estimated to use the same amount of electricity as 30,000 US homes. Energy consumption of warehouses run by companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon, is among the fastest growing sources of global electricity demand.  Earlier there were activity of Greenpeace seeking their shifting to clean renewable energy.  

But for an ordinary individual user, whether the server is in US or Europe should make little of difference !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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