Facebook Goes Global With Data Center in Sweden

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An artist's illustration of what the new Facebook data center in Lulea, Sweden will look like when it is completed. (Click for larger image)

Facebook will build a huge new data center in northern Sweden to support the rapid global growth of its users, the company said today. The new data center in Lulea, Sweden will be Facebook’s first facility outside the United States. 

The location takes advantage of the cool climate in Lulea, a seaside town of 45,000 located at approximately the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska. That cool weather will allow Facebook to use outside air to cool the tens of thousands of servers that will occupy the new campus.

Facebook plans to build multiple data centers in Lulea, beginning with a 27,000 square meter (290,000 square foot) first phase that will be completed in late 2012 and begin supporting traffic in the first half of 2013.

Electricity from Green Power Sources

The Facebook Lulea data center will be powered primarily by renewable energy, a change from the social network’s first two company-built data centers in Oregon and North Carolina, which each relied upon utility power that originated primarily from coal. Facebook’s power sourcing had been highlighted by the environmental group Greenpeace, which launched a lengthy campaign urging Facebook to “Unfriend Dirty Coal.”

The expansion of Facebook’s infrastructure beyond the U.S. reflects the increasingly global makeup of its user base. More than 75 percent of Facebook’s 800 million users are located outside the United States. Building data centers closer to these users can improve the speed of their connection and overall Facebook experience.

“It’s the next step in our ongoing strategy of building our own infrastructure and moving away from leased facilities,” said Facebook spokesman Michael Kirkland. “We are expecting this data center to continue to help us reduce latency for our users in Europe and beyond.”

Sweden: Climate, Connectivity, Green Power

The Facebook announcement is being celebrated in Sweden, and particularly in Lulea, where economic development officials have been marketing the region as a data center destination due to its combination of a cool climate, strong connectivity and plentiful supply of cheap, renewable energy.

“The cool, dry climate will allow us to continue our practice of using outside air to cool our data centers,” said Kirkland. The average daily temperature in Lulea ranges from high of 41 degrees F (5 degrees C) to low of 27 degrees F (-2.5 degrees C). The area averages just four days a year with high temperatures exceeding 25°C (77 degrees F).

Sweden is ranked second in the world for its telecommunications infrastructure by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), trailing only South Korea. Lulea has connectivity from five carriers: backbone provider TeliaSonera and Tele 2, TDC, Telenor and Banverket.

Energy Sourcing an “Important Consideration”

The nearby Lule River produces about 13.6 million megawatt hours of hydro-electric power, equal to 10 percent of Sweden’s total demand for electricity. Officials in Lulea say the area has some of the cheapest power rates in all of Europe.

“This will be the first Facebook data center powered primarily by renewable power, primarily hydro,” said Kirkland. “It’s a really important consioderation for us. Obviously, it’s not the only consideration.”

“This is a great step forward for Facebook, but we would like more details on how much renewable energy will power its data centre in Luleå,” said Casey Harrell, Greenpeace IT analyst. “With the IT sector one of the fastest growing consumers of electricity in the world, Facebook’s taking leadership on renewable energy could help determine whether we have a dirty ‘cloud’ or not.”

Facebook says the Lulea facility with be an energy-efficient data center, and employ many of the techniques used to conserve power at its Prineville site. The Oregon facility uses evaporative cooling instead of a chiller system, continuing a trend towards chiller-less data centers and water conservation. Facebook also says it will use waste heat from servers to heat office areas.

Inside the building, Facebook is expected to implement the server and data center designs outlined in the Open Compute Project, which the company launched in February to release its custom designs for servers, power supplies and UPS units.

We’ll have more details on the new facility after today’s press conference in Sweden and the Facebook Open Compute Summit in New York.

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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16 Comments

  1. It's Luleå, not Lulea ;-)