Facebook May Get New Neighbors in Prineville

Facebook Director of Technical Operations Tom Furlong and Prineville, Oregon mayor Betty Roppe at the opening of the Facebook Prineville data center on April 15 (Photo: Rich Miller)

Lots of folks want to be friends with Facebook. Now several data center companies want to be their neighbor.

Officials in Prineville, Oregon say they are in discussion with two additional companies about building data centers in the town, where Facebook just opened its first company-built data center. Local officials said that interest in Facebook’s facility had attracted interest from other companies seeking to leverage the town’s ideal environment for using fresh air to cool servers.

“We are now actively engaged in talks with two other data center-type technology companies as a result of the city and county efforts to be proactive and Facebook’s willingness to share the story of their success building a data center in Prineville,” City Manager Steve Forrester told the Bend Bulletin (requires subscription or 50-cent day pass). Forrester said the names of the companies won’t be released unless a project is finalized, but in the meantime they have the codenames “Project Campbell” and “Cloud.”

Facebook Project Puts Prineville in Spotlight

The Facebook data center was known as “Project X” prior to its official announcement in January 2010. The 150,000 square foot first phase of the facility opened in April, and will be followed by a 150,000 square foot second phase to open later this year.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg traveled to Prineville for the grand opening, which was widely covered by news media.

Oregon’s cool, dry climate was a key factor in Facebook’s decision to locate its facility in Prineville. “It’s an ideal location for evaporative cooling,” said Jay Park, Facebook’s Director of Datacenter Engineering.  The temperature in Prineville has not exceeded 105 degrees in the last 50 years, he noted. Another new data center facility from Bend Broadband also takes advantage of the cool climate.

The central Oregon climate allows data centers to take advantage of  “free cooling,” the practice of using cool outside temperatures to support the cooling systems. This approach allows data centers to use outside air to either cool water or provide direct air cooling for servers. Either approach allows companies to reduce their use of refrigeration systems, which use a large amount of energy.

Boost to Local Economy

More data centers would be a boost to the economy in Prineville. The Facebook construction project had an average of 243 workers per day on the site, which required about 228 “man years” of labor to complete.  A total of 88 subcontractors worked on the site, including 41 companies from the immediate area of Bend, Prineville and Redmond. Facebook has hired 35 full-time employees to staff the facility, who earn at least 150 percent of the median salary in the region.

“Facebook has brought diversity to the job market at a time when unemployment has ranged from 17 to 20 percent,” said Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe. “During the past year Prineville has seen a loss of nearly 1,000 in population. Facebook’s arrival has opened the market for other business recruitment. Their arrival has given the community a shot of optimism.”

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large 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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  1. Jerry

    Looks like fb could branch out into data center builds........if they wanted to.

  2. I bet google builds a bigger data center right next to it.