Facebook and the Open Compute Project: Facebook Opens Data Center Specs to World

Facebook did something no self-respecting corporate giant would. On April 11 2011, Facebook decided to “open source” its data centers, initiating what it is calling the Open Compute Project. What this means is that Facebook released the data center and server design specifications, making them available to anyone and any company that might want to use them. This project, inspired by the ethics of open source software, is the beginning of efficient data centers everywhere, so let’s look at the data center and server specifications and why the world should care.

Facebook’s Servers and Data Centers

The first data center and servers to use these open sourced specifications is Facebook’s Pineville, Oregon, data centers and servers. The basic specifications leave even the most energy conscious groups drooling to know more. The Open Compute Project server design specifications will evolve over time and each of the evolutions or upgrades will be open source, as is the nature of open source licensing and developing.

Data Center Specs

The data center consists of four main components, the electrical systems, mechanical systems, battery cabinet and server racks, called Triplet Racks. The electrical system is an integrated system with the server power supply. It is a 48VDC UPS system, with the 277VAC power supply. The mechanical system uses an evaporative cooling system that uses “100 percent airside economization.” An evaporative cooling system is one that uses nature’s evaporation of water and a low energy consumption air moving system to make it work.

The battery cabinet is is a standalone system. The 48-volt DC nominal string voltage of 48VDC provides a power to a pair of server racks only in the case that backup electricity is needed. The Triplet racks are racks of grouped servers. They get the name “Triplet Racks” because the servers are grouped into triplets, with three 42U columns. Each of these server groups then has two switches at the top, so that each of the columns uses 30 servers, making 90 servers in a triplet rack. One battery cabinet is provided for two racks, in case of an AC power loss.

Server Specs

The servers consist of three components, the chassis, motherboard and power supply. The servers use a basic chassis with no markings and rounded corners. It is specifically designed to accommodate any type of custom server set-up a company might use. The motherboards are a barebones version of the AMD Opteron® 6100 Series motherboard, or a barebones version of either the Intel Xeon® 5600, or the Intel Xeon® 5500 motherboards. The difference between the two is that the AMD has 24 DIMM slots and the Intel versions have 18. The server’s power supply is a basic 450-Watt AC/DC single voltage 12.5VDC power converter. It is self-cooling with a closed frame.

The data center and servers focus on high-energy efficiency, barebones designs that strip away anything that is not specifically required to make them run. This includes paint, designs, and markings of any kind. Essentially, anything that would stop them from transferring heat is taken away, while leaving on the necessary components to make them run.

Why Should We Care?

No company is this altruistic, is it? Of course not, but Facebook would like the world to think it is, but why is this so important to the world of efficient tech? Facebook’s data center and servers are not only one of a kind, but they are highly energy efficient, meaning green and environmentally friendly.

Facebook found that during production tests that the company’s power consumption has declined by 38 percent since using the data center and servers. The data center has a lower than industry average Power Energy Consumption rating of 1.07. The EPA standards call for 1.5, meaning that each Facebook server uses 93 percent of grid energy effectively. In fact, this data proves that Facebook’s data center and servers are the most efficient in the world, or at least a report made to Congress by Energy Star thinks so.

Corporate Possibilities

The forever battle that rages between the corporate titans, and it will often leave the consumer world scared and thinking that if we are not careful, it could spell trouble (monopoly).Facebook has largely not been a part of these fears. Well, excerpt for the privacy policy and control problems, but Facebook quickly took care of this by implementing more controls, and then controls that are somewhat simplified.

Open sourcing the company’s design specifications is the first step to a better, energy efficient corporate world. In the “real” tech world, a data center like this was a long way off and Facebook opening its designs to the public by way of the Open Compute Project means that every company in the world can use the specs, and try to make an environmentally friendly pact – or at least their data centers can.


“Building Efficient Data Centers with the Open Compute Project,” Facebook
“Pineville Data Center Facebook Page,” Facebook
“Data Centers Component Specifications Page,” Open Compute Project
“Server Specifications Page,” Open Compute Project
“Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency Public Law 109-431,” Energy Star