Facebook Brings Open Compute into its Colo Space

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Rows of servers inside the new Facebook data center in Prineville, Oregon.

Facebook developed its Open Compute servers for its custom-built data centers. But the social network will soon be deploying those servers in some of its leased data center space as well.

Facebook has been working with landlord DuPont Fabros Technology (DFT) to implement its Open Compute designs in a data center in Ashburn, Virginia, according to Frank Frankovsky, Director of Hardware Design and Supply Chain at Facebook. The ability to run Facebook’s new hardware in leased facilities could be good news for the data center service providers, providing more flexibility as Facebook’s infrastructure makes the gradual transition to company-built facilities.

Frankovsky discussed Facebook’s infrastructure Monday in a keynote session at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas, in which he reviewed steps enterprises could take to improve their data center efficiency without building their own custom infrastructure.

Progress on Open Compute in Multi-Tenant Sites

In an interview with Data Center Knowledge, Frankovsky discussed the Open Compute Project, an initiative to develop standardized hardware designs to democratize data center infrastructure. Frankovsky said there has been important progress in adapting Open Compute designs to multi-tenant data centers, a step that could make the energy efficient designs accessible to a broader range of users.

While it might be straightforward for companies to integrate the Open Compute designs when building their own data centers, Facebook’s customizations provide challenges in multi-tenant facilities, especially a streamlined power distribution with a decentralized UPS design. Facebook uses custom “triplet” racks that each house 30 of the 1.5U Facebook servers, with each row of racks enclosed in a hot-aisle containment system.

“There are ways to fit this technology into a non-customized data center,” said Frankovsky, noting Facebook’s collaboration with DuPont Fabros. “We’re handling the handoff to custom power at the PDU level.”

Facebook’s server power supplies include two connections, one for AC utility power and another for the DC-based UPS system. In the Ashburn installation, only the AC side of the design will be used.

Digital Realty Also Adapting Open Compute

Frankovsky said he’s also encouraged that Digital Realty Trust, another large data center operator, has adapted Open Compute concepts in reference designs for its data center pods. This makes it easier for customers interested in Open Compute designs to implement them in a new Digital Realty data center.

Facebook is a major customer of both wholesale providers, spending about $30 million a year on leases with Digital Realty Trust and $22 million a year on space with DuPont Fabros. Facebook has said that it will gradually shift its server capacity from leased data centers to company-owned facilities, migrating out of many third-party facilities as its leases expire.

The ability to easily implement Open Compute designs could make it easier for Facebook to adapt existing leased space to fit into its next-generation infrastructure. This could be important in markets like Ashburn, a key connectivity hub where Facebook is unlikely to build its own facility.

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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