News & Insights for the AI Journey|Tuesday, September 17, 2019
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Arctic Facebook Datacenter Goes Live 

Facebook's newest datacenter in Luleå, Sweden, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, went live this week.

Facebook's newest datacenter in Luleå, Sweden, on the edge of the Arctic Circle, went live on Wednesday. The site, Facebook's first in Europe, is now handling user traffic from around the world. Facebook has not revealed the cost of the project, but Swedish officials put the figure at $764 million.

Keeping all that IT equipment from overheating requires a lot of cooling, and when traditional power-hungry chillers are employed for that purpose, the cost is significant. A rather obvious, if not easy, alternative is to use some version of free or near-free cooling. Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google are among the big datacenter operators who are actively pursuing these concepts. Instead of bringing the cold to the datacenter, why not bring the datacenter to the cold? That's what prompted Google to build sites in Finland and Belgium.

Likewise, Facebook is relying on the chilly Arctic air to help reduce cooling costs, and will use the remaining "waste" heat to warm its offices. But that's not the only benefit of this locale. The IT equipment itself is being powered by 100 percent renewable hydro-electric energy generated by the nearby Lule river. Facebook reports that the supply is so reliable that it has been able to reduce the number of onsite backup generators by more than 70 percent.

The Luleå facility was the among the first to be constructed almost entirely with Open Compute Project techniques. The Facebook-founded initiative employs "vanity-free" hardware designs to boost energy-efficiency.

Facebook characterized the new site as "one of the most efficient and sustainable data centers in the world." Early PUE tests returned a very-respectable average PUE of 1.07. Furthermore the company vowed to publish a real-time PUE monitor allowing the public to access the metric in real-time.

The Luleå site is the largest of its kind ever built in Europe, and the northernmost datacenter of this magnitude on Earth. Luleå has the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska, and is located in the coldest part of Sweden. The yearly average temperature is 2 degrees Celsius (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

The timing of this announcement was particularly fortunate for Facebook. Although plans for the datacenter were revealed in October 2011, the site going live this week came on the heels of the NSA leak that raised serious concerns over US government access to private data. The European location of this datacenter means it has to obey the EU's stronger privacy laws, which could counter some of the criticism that Facebook has faced for its "privacy policies" and data collection mechanisms.

When the site was first announced, Tom Furlong, Director of Site Operations at Facebook, remarked: "After a rigorous review process of sites across Europe, we concluded that Luleå offered the best package of resources – including a suitable climate for environmental cooling, clean power resources, available land, talented regional workforce and supportive business and corporate environment."

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