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Facebook’s New Server Farm To Be Located Near Arctic Circle

October 27, 2011

Facebook plans to build a new server farm on the outskirts of the Arctic Circle — its first outside the US — that will house all its computer servers and use as much energy as a small city, reports the Telegraph.

Facebook confirmed Thursday that it picked the northern Swedish city of Lulea to host its data center partly because of the cold climate — cool temperatures is a crucial component needed to keep the servers from overheating. It also chose the location because of access to renewable energy from nearby hydropower plants. The data center will improve performance for European users of the social network.

“The climate will allow them to just use only air for cooling the servers,” Mats Engman, chief executive of the Aurorum Science Park, which aims to turn the city into a ℠Node Pole´ and bring in other international computing firms, told The Telegraph.

“If you take the statistics, the temperature has not been above 30C [86F] for more than 24 hours since 1961. If you take the average temperature, it’s around 2C [35.6F],” Engman said.

Lulea is located at the northern edge of the Baltic Sea, roughly 62 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

“Facebook has more users outside the US than inside,” Facebook director of site operations Tom Furlong told The Associated Press. “It was time for us to expand in Europe.”

European users would have better performance with data centers closer to them, he noted. Currently, the social network stores its data at sites in California, Virginia and Oregon. It is also building another data center in North Carolina.

The Lulea data center will include three 300,000 square foot server buildings and should be up and running by 2014. The site will need 120 megawatts of energy to run smoothly, which will be delivered through hydropower.

Each unit will have 14 backup diesel generators in case of a blackout. Even though the units will rely on air cooling, keeping the servers running will require the energy equivalence of powering 16,000 homes, and will cost more than $50 million a year.

Facebook didn´t give a price for the new data center, but officials in Lulea have projected construction costs could reach $760 million.

Lulea gets its energy from hydropower located on the nearby river. “The Lulea river produces twice as much electricity as the Hoover Dam does, so 50 per cent is exported from our region. There is a surplus of energy, and we can supply more data centers in this area easily,” said Engman.

Lulea also has a very dense fiber optic network. “Sweden has the highest penetration in the world of fiber to households, so it is very well connected,” Engman told the Telegraph. “You can get very easily through Finland into Eastern Europe and Russia.”

Facebook is not the only company that has recently looked into Northern Europe for server farms. In 2007, Microsoft said it planned to build a data center in Siberia, but that deal never materialized. Google in 2009 bought an abandoned paper mill in Hamina, Finland and turned it into a data center. It uses seawater from the Baltic Sea for its cooling system.

Furlong is flying to Lulea today ahead of a press conference, when Facebook will give the full outline on its plans. Furlong´s team looked at more than 40 locations in Sweden alone, before narrowing their choices down to Lulea and Ostersund earlier this year.

Furlong led development on Facebook´s first server farm in Prineville, Oregon, which also relies on air cooling. The region´s chilly desert nights and cold winters made it an ideal spot for a data center.

Data centers are the backbone of Internet services such as Facebook. The servers store and transmit billions of status updates, links, photos and all the outside apps used by Facebook´s members. 

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Source: RedOrbit Staff & Wire Reports



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