Facebook Data Centers Offer Users Look Into Water, Power Usage
April 19, 2013

Facebook Data Centers Offer Users Look Into Water, Power Usage

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

In an effort to open up some of their operations, Facebook has given the Internet a front row seat to two of their American data centers. These data centers, located in Prineville, Oregon and Forest City, North Carolina, work like any other industrial building, meaning they require power, cooling and water.

The social network is now offering up a pair of interactive dashboards to let anyone take a look at how much energy their buildings are consuming. This move is a part of Facebook´s involvement with the Open Compute Project which aims to promote open hardware. In that spirit, the project says they plan to release the code which powers Facebook´s new dashboard “in the coming weeks.” Facebook also plans to launch a dashboard for their data center in LuleÃ¥, Sweden when it comes online.

The dashboards show four data points: Power Usage Effectiveness, (PUE) Water Usage Effectiveness, (WUE) Humidity and Temperature. Previously Facebook had been releasing the PUE and WUE numbers on a quarterly basis. This real-time information was once only seen by the data center employees and was displayed on a large flatscreen display in the lobby. Now this information is not only available to all, it´s also interactive which gives users the ability to see these numbers at different points throughout the day.

“Why are we doing this? Well, we´re proud of our data center efficiency, and we think it´s important to demystify data centers and share more about what our operations really look like,” writes Lyrica McTiernan in a blog post for the Open Compute Project. “These dashboards are the natural next step, since they answer the question, “What really happens when those servers are installed and the power´s turned on?”

McTiernan says these dashboards weren´t easy to release. As the data centers aren´t yet complete and constantly changing, the numbers displayed in the dashboards are likely to change wildly from time to time.

“These dashboards are about surfacing raw data — and sometimes, raw data looks messy. But we believe in iteration, in getting projects out the door and improving them over time,” she adds.

Facebook hopes that this move in conjunction with posting their open source code on GitHub will encourage other data center-owning tech titans to begin making this information publicly available as well.

“Working together with AREA 17, the company that designed these visualizations, we´ve decided to open-source the front-end code for these dashboards so that any organization interested in sharing PUE, WUE, temperature, and humidity at its data center sites can use these dashboards to get started,” McTiernan says. Facebook and the Open Compute Project also encourage others to poke around their code and find ways to improve it as well as incorporate it into their own data centers.

The dashboards for the data centers are more than simple lip service to make Facebook appear more “open.” The information displayed therein gives the public a clear view of the effect our fascination with social networking has on the environment. Facebook doesn´t only exist in the ether; it requires real world power to fuel the website and these dashboards tell the story of just how much power is being used.