April 26, 2012

Facebook Showcases Green Datacenter

Robert Gelber

Energy consumption accounts for a large portion of datacenter operating budgets. The added environmental impact compounded with capital costs has motivated operators to increase the efficiency and lower the cost of computing. Last year, Facebook spun up the Open Compute Project, with the goal of improving datacenter designs to meet those goals.

So far, the project has produced a number of components including a server chassis, a battery cabinet and two x86 motherboards. All of the designs are freely available to download from their website.

To rate efficiency, datacenters calculate their power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio. The rating compares how much incoming power to energy used for computational processes. One estimate puts the average datacenter PUE at 1.8. Larger Internet players have used some unique solutions to bring that number closer to the 1.0 mark, with Google currently averaging a 1.14 PUE.

Prineville, Oregon is home to one of the world’s most efficient datacenters. Built by Facebook, the center utilizes designs from the Open Compute Project as well as innovative LED lighting and gray water facilities to receive a 1.07 PUE rating at full load.

Ken Pratchett, Manager of the Prineville data center, discussed the cost and efficiency of the Open Compute Servers, “These machines are 38 percent more efficient than another machine that you could find on the open market,” he said. “In fact, they cost 24 percent less to create.”

The combination of green technologies implemented at the Oregon datacenter earned it a Gold Certification from the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Compared to other datacenters built to code, it consumed 52 percent less energy and 72 percent less water for occupant use.  It also recycles captured water for landscape irrigation. 

Next month, the Open Compute Project will hold a summit in San Antonio. The two-day event will include the following workshops:

  • Mechanical design and modular power distribution
  • Defining open systems management for the enterprise
  • New initiatives; building for different geographies
  • New hardware and building for the 100 year standard
  • Pushing the limits of connectivity, software and hardware modularity


The consumer-driven demand for computer technology has spurred the need for more and larger datacenters, resulting in increased energy consumption and higher operational costs. Examples like the one in Prineville not only lead to innovation in the field of green datacenter technology, but also provide a framework for cost-effective operations as well.

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