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June 9, 2013 10:20 PM   Subscribe

Facebook versus The Cloud "I got a call, 'Jay, there's a cloud in the data center'," Parikh says. "'What do you mean, outside?'. 'No, inside'." The data centre in question.
posted by GuyZero (21 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh.

Let me tell about the time we pushed the Big Red Button in the Physics Computer Server room at UCSC.

The lab had been built in early seventies and had originally contained five or six really big (not powerful mind you, just big) machines up against the walls . All of their power was routed through the Big Red Button. Also, there was an industrial strength air conditioner partially hanging down in the center of the room to keep everything chilly.

Flash forward twenty years and all of the big machines are gone and have been replaced by a room full of racks of relatively small (but very powerful) machines. The air conditioner still hangs where we left it.

Now there are five of us standing in the room admiring the small water leak that has developed in the bottom of the air conditioner. We are considering our options when suddenly with a massive "SPRONG!" a piece of sheet metal gives way and water begins pouring out of every corner of the air conditioner onto a room full of running computers.

Five people look at each other. Three say "Big Red Button?" at the same time the other two say "Big Red Button!!"

The Big Red Button is pushed! The lights go off! The desk lamps go off! A few monitors go off!

And a rising whine lets us know that nobody who had installed an Uninterruptible Power Supply in the last twenty years had run it through the Button.

There followed the type of mayhem that can only be caused by five guys trying to unplug 60 servers as quickly as humanly possible.

In the end we only lost two machines, a few hard drives and a bunch of keyboards. Good times.

(and because it's been asked in the past -- yes, it would have been faster to shut down the UPSs rather than pull the plugs on the machines. We all commented on that about five minutes later)
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [33 favorites]


A swamp cooler?!? Who thought this was a good idea?
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:03 AM on June 10, 2013


This happens in big buildings as well, like the Vehicle Assembly Building and Boeing's manufacturing line in Seattle.
posted by disillusioned at 12:30 AM on June 10, 2013


I was curious about the media system mentioned in the article. It seems that the new system being installed will run the cooling water down through a fiberglass pad rather than spraying it into the air. The end result is the same; the water absorbs heat from the air blowing through it, but since there are no high-pressure nozzles involved, particulate matter isn't a problem. Hence, no reverse osmosis treatment of the water is needed. The system actually scrubs the air clean. Pretty clever.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:48 AM on June 10, 2013


Very cool.
posted by From Bklyn at 2:01 AM on June 10, 2013


Swamp coolers are super energy efficient and perfect for a data center, since the air needs to remain humid for anti-static and energy transfer purposes.

What I want to know is why those open compute servers are so wasteful with space? Can they possibly be so much cheaper that the cost of all the extra racks and real estate balances it out?
posted by gjc at 2:07 AM on June 10, 2013


They don't build these things where real estate is expensive.
posted by ryanrs at 3:08 AM on June 10, 2013


Facebook launched two dashboards to monitor the efficiency of two of its data centers Prineville and Forest City.

And for the name drop - Area 17 did the rather nice* design/FE build of those.

*Yes I work for A17
posted by 13twelve at 4:09 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


POIDH
posted by devnull at 4:13 AM on June 10, 2013


They don't build these things where real estate is expensive.

Indeed. I visited a data center in St. Louis that looks like it's in an abandoned building. That's because it practically is an abandoned building. We had to use a freight elevator marked "NOT IN USE."
posted by Foosnark at 4:57 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Foosnark: Was it that AT&T building in University city near the corner of Delmar and Skinker? I used to live near it and I always wondered what way inside.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:03 AM on June 10, 2013


I like the part where they are venting heat to the atmosphere AND generating electricity onsite.

As opposed to The Internet Archive, where their heating efficiency is over 100%.
posted by DU at 5:06 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was it that AT&T building in University city near the corner of Delmar and Skinker? I used to live near it and I always wondered what way inside.

Inside that building is switching equipment. It's still in use, as far as I know.
posted by jedicus at 5:52 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


This sort of thing is not entirely unheard of.
posted by A dead Quaker at 6:26 AM on June 10, 2013


So if that's part of FB, how much hardware is needed to run NSA's data capture(s) from Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al? Do they care about energy efficiency?
posted by sneebler at 6:27 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The clouds in the room (art instillations, previously)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:01 AM on June 10, 2013


They don't build these things where real estate is expensive.

I guess when you are at that scale, things are different. I'm just used to the industry working on increasing density with things like blade servers and whatnot. The machines I work on are literally crammed full of processors, memory and hard drives, so it is odd to see so much empty space.

I'm sure they have it worked out, but it just seems like that design is horribly inefficient in space, energy and overhead. If you are building your own stuff, it would seem like you'd build something a little more blade-server-y. Just the sheer number of fans alone seems wasteful.
posted by gjc at 8:37 AM on June 10, 2013


I suspect, although I am not positive, that some of the issue is I/O bandwidth. Facebook doesn't need a server that has a dozen CPUs and a single NIC.

Also I'm pretty sure that these servers are no worse for energy density than blade servers - blade servers are sort of notorious for power consumption, no?
posted by GuyZero at 9:33 AM on June 10, 2013


gjc, higher density means more watts per square foot, which then requires more cooling or space to manage the resulting heat issues. I'm sure that Facebook is at or is expanding to be at exactly the density that their size and current cooling system would support. As they develop new cooling efficiencies their power consumption can grow accordingly.
posted by Blue Meanie at 9:34 AM on June 10, 2013


So if that's part of FB, how much hardware is needed to run NSA's data capture(s) from Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al? Do they care about energy efficiency?

Wired: The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center
posted by Kabanos at 9:39 AM on June 10, 2013


Was it that AT&T building in University city near the corner of Delmar and Skinker? I used to live near it and I always wondered what way inside.
Inside that building is switching equipment. It's still in use, as far as I know.


It is indeed. I've seen employees coming and going during the day. They really do their best to make it look disused, though, which is kind of a shame in that I think it ends up discouraging casual walking traffic across Skinker.
posted by invitapriore at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


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