Facebook Amassing Data Center Space

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A look at the fully-packed racks inside a Facebook data center facility.

Facebook has moved to lock down much of the available data center space in two major  markets, leasing large chunks of space in Santa Clara, Calif. and Ashburn, Va. The fast-growing social network will occupy all the available space in two newly-built data centers, and much of a third site that is still under construction.

The deals indicate that Facebook is pursuing a ”buy for now, build for later” strategy in expanding its server infrastructure. Facebook is leasing turn-key data center space to meet its short term needs while it ramps up its in-house data center construction program. Facebook is currently building its first company-owned data center in Prineville, Oregon.

400 Million Users = Lots of Servers
But the Prineville facility won’t be completed until early 2011, and that’s apparently not soon enough to keep pace with the growth of Facebook, which recently surged past 400 million users. In Oct. 2009 Facebook said it had more than 30,000 servers, but that was more than 100 mllion users ago. So the company has gone shopping.  

“We can confirm that we have leased additional capacity in the Bay Area and Virginia, but we will not discuss the specifics of the agreements,” said Tom Furlong, Director of Site Operations at Facebook. “This additional capacity, along with the new facility in Prineville that is currently under construction, will help support our continued growth. We are always looking for ways to grow our infrastructure in an efficient and cost effective manner and this additional capacity is no exception.”

None of the data center developers have publicly identified Facebook as its new tenant. But the size and velocity of Facebook’s leases have been noticed in Santa Clara and Ashburn, each strategic Internet markets with strong demand and a limited amount of data center space. Here’s what we’ve heard about Facebook’s expansion: 

Entire Data Center in Santa Clara
In Santa Clara, Facebook has leased the entire 50,000 square foot first phase of a new data center built by CoreSite. The company entered into a six-year lease with CoreSite in March, as soon as the space became available. The lease was mentioned in CoreSite’s recent IPO filing, with the tenant described as a “leading online social networking company.” 

Facebook has also reportedly leased the balance of the available space in a new data center built by Digital Realty Trust (DLR) in Ashburn. The lease, also signed in March, will provide Facebook with 89,000 square feet of space that will come online in the third and fourth quarters of 2010.

Around the same time, Facebook leased additional space in the ACC5 data center in Ashburn, where it already occupies server space. ACC5 is operated by DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT), which is currently completing the second phase of the facility for occupancy in November.

None of the data center developers have publicly identified Facebook as its new tenant. But the size and velocity of Facebook’s leases have been noticed within the data center industry, as Santa Clara and Ashburn are both strategic markets with a limited amount of turn-key space available.

The speed with which Facebook has leased these data centers has sent all three of its landlords back into construction mode:

  • CoreSite has begun construction on the 50,000 square foot second phase of its Santa Clara project, which it expects to complete by the end of June.
  • Digital Realty has announced plans to build two additional data centers in Ashburn that will total 270,00 square feet of space and 20 megawatts of power.
  • DuPont Fabros has just announced plans to build huge new data centers in both Ashburn AND Santa Clara, which will each span more than 300,000 square feet of space and use 26 megawatts of power.

As a result, Facebook’s growth is translating into construction jobs in these communities.

While there are some segments of the colocation and hosting industry with plenty of capacity in Silicon Valley and northern New Jersey, Facebook has focused on wholesale data centers,  a particular class of space that is in short supply in these markets.

Wholesale data centers offer finished ”plug and play” raised-floor data center space, which shifts the data center development costs from the tenant to the landlord, and allows for much quicker deployment than if the customer built a new facility on its own. Because they require less up-front investment, wholesale space has gained momentum during the economic slowdown.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor-in-chief of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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