Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Monday, December 5, 2022

Facebook Uses Ikea Modular Approach In Second Swedish Datacenter 

Facebook announced it will be using new lean manufacturing concepts, developed as part of the Open Compute Project (OCP), for the construction of a second building at its existing Luleå, Sweden datacenter location. Luleå 2, as the site is known, will be the first Facebook facility to employ the company's new Rapid Deployment Data Center (RDDC) designs.

The RDDC concept was showcased at the Open Compute Summit in January, and Marco Magarelli, an engineer on Facebook's datacenter design team who previewed the designs, has provided additional details about the new practices, which the social media giant is counting on to expand datacenter capacity twice as fast as previous methods.

As part of its ongoing efficiency efforts, Facebook created the RDDC approach by taking modular and lean construction principles and applying them at the scale of a Facebook datacenter. In addition to enabling a faster deployment process, Facebook is refining the method to be site-agnostic and to significantly reduce the amount of material used in the construction. While Facebook has been honing the strategy for some time, and has even done mockup constructions, the company will soon be putting its plans into real-world production at the company's Luleå, Sweden campus.

Facebook built its first datacenter in Prineville, Oregon four years ago. Since then, the company has deployed several iterations of that design, open sourced under the Open Compute Project. In addition to the Prineville site, the company also has facilities in Forest City, North Carolina; Luleå, Sweden; and a campus currently under construction in Altoona, Iowa, which it expects to be serving live traffic in early 2015.

The RDDC concept grew out of a 2012 hack project, which brought together Facebook's datacenter strategic development and design team with several experts in lean construction. The challenge was to design a datacenter using best practices from manufacturing. Two core ideas emerged: the chassis and the flat pack approach.

The chassis approach calls for using pre-assembled steel frames 12 feet in width and 40 feet in length. It is similar to the assembly of a car on a chassis, where the frame is constructed first and then components are attached on an assembly line. This enables the cable trays, power busways, containment panels, and even lighting to be constructed off-site.

facebook-rddc-chassis

 

When the chassis arrive on site, they are positioned atop posts that have been mounted to the slab. Attaching two chassis end to end creates a 60-foot-long cold aisle, with 10 feet of aisle space at each end. A typical data hall is comprised of 52 chassis, attached in a 4 x 13 grid configuration, with 13 cold aisles.

 

The second main part of the RDDC concept is the flat pack assembly approach popularized by Swedish company Ikea. Previous Facebook datacenters relied on high capacity roof structures to support a cooling penthouse, but this manner of construction requires a lot of work on lifts and assembly on site. By tightly packing components ahead of time, the walls of a datacenter can be panelized and fit into standard building modules that are easy to transport on a flatbed trailer.

facebook-rddc-flatpack

 "Just as the great Swedish company Ikea revolutionized how furniture is designed and built, we hope that Luleå 2 will become a model for the next generation of data centers," observes a company representative.

Facebook notes that although the flat pack concept is still in its early stages, evaluations have already identified time and material savings. The company expects further key measureable gains attributable to site-agnostic design, reduced on-site impact, and improved execution and workmanship.

In addition to employing an innovative construction process, the new facility will reflect Facebook's commitment to energy-efficiency. As with Luleå 1, the second Luleå datacenter will feature racks, servers, storage, and other equipment built to OCP specifications and will access the same renewable power source, i.e., hydro-generated electricity from the Lule River.

Since it became operational nearly one year ago, Luleå 1 has achieved a very desirable Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) rating of approximately 1.05. This almost perfect measurement means that nearly every watt going into the datacenter is being used to run the computing equipment. For comparison's sake, PUE figures of 2.0 or higher are not uncommon in enterprise datacenters, with more energy going into power-hungry cooling equipment than into the IT gear itself.

Facebook did not say when construction will begin on the second Luleå plant, except to say that it would start soon and that it would share which approaches it uses.

About the author: Tiffany Trader

With over a decade’s experience covering the HPC space, Tiffany Trader is one of the preeminent voices reporting on advanced scale computing today.

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