Facebook makes data centre and server designs open source

According to Gigaom, the worlds most popular social networking site -- Facebook -- has opened up its data centres and servers by releasing a tonne of previously unknown information. During a news event earlier on today the company talked about a "server design that minimizes power consumption and cost while delivering the right computer workload for a variety of tasks."

Unlike other companies, such as Google, which use custom built hardware and keep the details close to their chests, Facebook has started a trend for transparency which is likely to open up the market for web scale computing and make it more accessible to the common people. Some of the key server details, according to Facebook are:

  • The outside is 1.2mm zinc pre-plated, corrosion-resistant steel with no front panel and no ads.
  • The parts snap together: the motherboard snaps into place using a series of mounting holes on the chassis, and the hard drive uses snap-in rails and slides into the drive bay. The unit only has one screw for grounding. It’s like Container Store does cheap servers and someone at Facebook built an entire server in three minutes.
  • Hold onto your chassis because the server is 1.5u tall about 50 percent taller than other servers to make room for larger and more efficient heat sinks.
  • Check out how this scales. It has a reboot on LAN feature, which lets a systems administrator instantly reboot a server by sending specific network instructions.
  • The motherboard speaker is replaced with LED indicators to save power and provide visual indicators of server health.
  • The power supply accepts both A/C and D/C power, allowing the server to switch to D/C backup battery power in the event of a power outage.
  • There are two flavors of processor with the Intel motherboard offering two Xeon 5500 series or 5600 series processors, up to 144GB memory and an Intel 5500 I/O Hub chip.
  • AMD fans can choose two AMD Magny-Cours 12 and 8 core CPUs, the AMD SR5650 chipset for I/O, and up to a maximum 192GB of memory.

The social giant also released information about its data centre designs in order to help startup companies create a reliable infrastructure that uses as little power as possible. Similar to Microsoft and Yahoo data centres, Facebook relies on everything being self designed, including motion sensitive LED lights, custom racks and even battery cabinets, all of which results in a data centre with an effectiveness ratio of 1.07, under the EPA's recommended figure of 1.5.

Other improvements over traditional design include features such as allowing the "equipment to run in steamier environments, which in turns lets Facebook rely on evaporative cooling instead of air conditioning" and "using the warm air from the servers to heat the outside air when it’s too cold as well as the offices."

The company intend to share the designs for their power supply, server chassis, motherboard and cabinet designs in a CAD.

Image Credit: Gigaom

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