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Open Compute Project
April 7, 2011 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Facebook's Open Compute Project aims to share with the public the social network's efficiency design improvements to its compute nodes. [ via ]
posted by Blazecock Pileon (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
I wonder if they're just trying to distract everyone from the fact that despite being in hydroelectric-rich Oregon, most of their power is coming from nasty ol' coal.
posted by mullingitover at 5:48 PM on April 7, 2011


Some background on that aspect.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:54 PM on April 7, 2011


Ethernet-powered LED lighting and passive cooling infrastructure reduce energy spent on running the facility.

Heh. That sounds pretty slick. Why not just make everyone wear those little miner's hat's with the light, though? That would probably save even more power.

I like the fact they're making super-cheap servers. It seems like 'enterprise' servers usually end up being crazy expensive. Google also designs their own boards and servers. Google actually puts batteries directly in the servers rather then UPS.
I wonder if they're just trying to distract everyone from the fact that despite being in hydroelectric-rich Oregon, most of their power is coming from nasty ol' coal.
Huh? If it's on the grid then it's using the same energy as everyone else. Are you saying Facebook has their own coal plant or something?
posted by delmoi at 5:55 PM on April 7, 2011


Huh? If it's on the grid then it's using the same energy as everyone else. Are you saying Facebook has their own coal plant or something?

No, just that they went out of their way to avoid paying more for cleaner energy for their data center. From BP's link:
“Pacific Power, a utility owned by PacifiCorp, will provide the electricity” in Prineville, Matt writes. “While Pacific Power gets some hydropower from BPA, its primary power-generation fuel is coal, according to Jason Carr, the manager of the Prineville office of economic development for Central Oregon.”

It turns out the BPA will soon be implementing a tiered pricing system in which new customers will pay a higher rate to offset the costs of non-hydro generation the BPA will purchase to meet growing demand.

“With the price of hydropower increasing in the Northwest, Facebook opted to bet on the incremental price increases associated with coal rather than face tier-two pricing from BPA,” Matt writes.
posted by mullingitover at 6:04 PM on April 7, 2011


Are you saying Facebook has their own coal plant or something?

No, but they chose their site specifically because of the comparatively cheap energy rates from the power utility that services the site. That power utility primarily sells coal-generated power. Google's site at The Dalles, on the other hand, was placed there for its access to hydro power.

As far as the Open Compute Project, I think this is a good thing. This is the kind of thing that would normally be treated as a competitive advantage, and a PUE of 1.07 is lower than Google's best effort so far, I think. Google has also published some information about its data centers, which is worth reading, but they haven't formalized the release of that information as a dedicated project like this.
posted by me & my monkey at 6:05 PM on April 7, 2011


"Open" is the new black. Except with black, you have to actually be wearing black.
posted by DU at 6:06 PM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why not just make everyone wear those little miner's hat's with the light, though?

Because it's one step from that to "What has it got in its pocketses, precioussss?"

From one who knows.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:07 PM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's some good discussion on HN, including a tweet alleging that HP at least may be considering actually selling these suckers. Joyeur has a nice post on the background of the companies (read: not Facebook) that are actually building these things.
posted by Skorgu at 6:10 PM on April 7, 2011


I'm really excited to see Facebook release so much technical detail. Google's been building innovative datacenter hardware for years, but is so tight-lipped about what they do that the rest of the technical world has not benefitted much from their development. Facebook's now doing the same and is kind enough to share the details. We all win.

As for coal... Amazing how the first comment can derail a whole thread.
posted by Nelson at 7:04 PM on April 7, 2011


Sorry, I thought it was on topic since we're ultimately talking about energy. It made me think of a pre-Civil War southern plantation boasting "We're extremely efficent! We can run this modernized plantation on 40% fewer slaves!"
posted by mullingitover at 7:32 PM on April 7, 2011


Hats off to the engineers that got such efficiency improvements, it's good to see something like this being shared publicly.

But it still suffers from the blind spot of all IT datacentres - their inability to decide on AC or DC. The inefficiency of running a transformer / rectifier to convert and step down AC to DC for the batteries - then to invert and step up DC to AC for distribution to the servers (when on backup power) - and then have switched mode power supplies in the servers themselves convert and step down from AC to DC again - now that's inefficiency in design, inefficiency in material usage, and inefficiency through power losses. And let's not forget all the power factor issues - yes, it can be corrected, but that's even more investment in cap banks or similar.

To avoid all this inefficiency, telecommunications equipment moved to DC power at 24 or 48V DC many years ago, and simplifying the power supply arrangements also reduced single points of failure.

The standard argument for maintaining AC power is the convenience of being able to use off-the-shelf hardware and being able to plug the devices in without recourse to an electrician, but if Facebook are going to so much trouble to source customised hardware, why not go the extra distance to truly claim efficiency in this space?

Another real place for improvement is ducting or converting waste heat - a Finnish solution uses waste heat to heat 500 homes - but I don't see any of these efficiencies demonstrated here.
posted by KirkpatrickMac at 5:05 AM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


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