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Facebook Opens Up Datacentre Design

Engineers at Facebook have launched the Open Compute Project, a new initiative to share state-of-the-art plans for datacentre design. Rory MacDonald investigates...

The company has recently completed work on its first purpose built multimillion dollar datacentre in Prineville Oregon, US, having previously leased space in existing facilities. The goal of the project was to build one of the most efficient computing infrastructures at the lowest possible cost. The result is a datacentre that Facebook claims is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other state-of-the-art datacentres.

However, in contrast to the industry norm of shrouding hardware innovations and designs in secrecy, Facebook has launched the Open Compute Project as a way of inviting feedback, encouraging others to use and adapt their designs and, according to Jonathan Heiliger, the company’s vice president of Technical Operations, to open the door to other organisations to take the same open approach.

Facebook’s new Prineville Datacentre. Shiny.

The company is publishing specifications and mechanical designs for the hardware used in the datacentre under an Open Web Foundation Final Specification Agreement (OWFa 1.0) license. Initially, these will include motherboards, power supply, server chassis, server rack, and battery cabinets. In addition, Facebook is sharing its datacentre electrical and mechanical construction specifications.

“The ultimate goal of the Open Compute Project, however, is to spark a collaborative dialogue,” Heilliger explained. “We’re already talking with our peers about how we can work together on Open Compute Project technology. We want to recruit others to be part of this collaboration…to collectively develop the most efficient computing infrastructure possible.”