A Peek Inside Facebook’s Super-Green Data Centers
August 20, 2012
Now that the world is moving toward cloud computing, where information, applications, and files are stored on the web instead of on personal devices, a new type of infrastructure has become necessary: data centers. Often these are energy hogs, requiring huge amounts of electricity to supply and cool the servers inside, but now, greener alternatives are being sought. Read more.
Co.Design’s Jordan Kushins recently interviewed Neil Sheehan, principal of the firm that designed the newly completed Prineville data center for Facebook, in order to get the scoop on how exactly a data center can become “green.” From the interview, it’s clear that the biggest issue for a data center is coping with all of that heat. Says Sheehan, “Feel the little vent on the side of your laptop. It’s warm, right? Now, imagine stacking 42 of those that are far more powerful, one on top of the other; that would be a cabinet. Twenty-eight cabinets make up one row, with a total of 56 rows. Then double all that—because it’s just one side of the building. Now double that again because it goes lengthwise as well.”
Normally, data centers are hermetically sealed concrete boxes with massive air conditioning systems, but the Prineville data center solves the heat problem in an innovative way: it is open to the elements. Exterior air is funneled into the server cabinets after being slightly humidified; the water in the air absorbs much more heat than dry air. The heated air is then exhausted into the aisles where it moves up toward ceilings, which allow it to dissipate back outside.
Another important aspect of Prineville design is human comfort—most data centers don’t offer much in the way of natural light. At Prineville, all work spaces feature multi-directional natural light, and this is in addition to the facility’s courtyard, which aids in the cooling of servers and while also acting as a communal meeting and relaxation space for workers.
Images via Co.DESIGN