Facebook looks to update their status

Whether you’re an active user or not, it’s impossible to ignore the online power of Facebook; from marketing campaigns to socializing with friends, Facebook has become one of the main platforms for sharing news across the web. According to Facebook, over 1 billion people use the site each month, sharing over 2.4 billion content items with friends or colleagues.

Needless to say, behind all this information being tossed around are a few powerful data centres that spend a lot of energy getting your message where it’s supposed to be. According to some studies, data centres such as these consume more than 1% of all energy used in the United States, and that number isn’t growing any smaller. Recently however, largely due to criticism by organizations like Greenpeace and soaring energy costs, companies are starting to pay attention to the energy consumption of their data centres and taking steps to lessen the expense to both the environment, and their bottom line; take a look.

Facebook’s Open Compute Project paves way to energy-efficient data centres

Two years ago, Facebook launched the Open Compute Project, with the goal of building an efficient computing infrastructures at an affordable cost. Earlier this month, Green Biz announced that Facebook would begin publishing the results of their efforts in the form of two public dashboards that monitor real-time energy and water use at its locations in Prineville, Ore., and Forest City, N.C. A third site located in Lulea, Sweden is to be added later this year.

The dashboards look at Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Water Usage Effectiveness (WUE), tracking data for the past 24 hours, and the past year. All information is being made public, a move that could encourage others in the industry, like Google, to open up as well.

Access to wind-energy key in choosing new data centre location

According to GigaOM, Facebook used 532 million kilowatt hours of energy in 2011 – including both data centres and operations – and emitted 285,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. At that time, approximately 23% of the energy used at Facebook facilities stemmed from renewable energy, like hydro, solar and wind. The company is hoping to increase that number to 25% by 2015, illustrating the slow process of becoming energy-efficient as a data centre in search of affordable, clean (and green) power.

The newest data center will use improvements that have been made at current centres as examples of where to focus cost-saving efforts. Relying on wind energy and other breakthroughs, like the individual replacements of processors, motherboards and network technology, the data centre in Prineville, for example, was found to be 38% more efficient that the company’s previous facilities, resulting in a cost savings of about 24%. To reduce energy, and costs, the company has also decided to cut the number of power conversions in the data center and use batteries to back up multiple racks of servers. Iowa Energy Center reports that accessing renewable energy, specifically wind energy, played a large part in selecting the location of Facebook’s newest data center in Altoona, a project which will cost the company around $300 million, and is scheduled to open late next year. Last but not least, Facebook’s new servers will use 13% less power than those currently used in operation.

In a report by DesMoines, Vice President of Facebook, Jay Parikh says: “It’s important to be friendly to Mother Earth. We should not be wasting these precious resources. But we also think it’s smart just from a cost perspective. When you waste lots of energy, you waste lots of money.”

Criticism from Greenpeace and the road ahead

Alongside the likes of Apple and eBay, Facebook has been under close watch by Greenpeace, with which it entered what is referred to by Green Biz as the biggest feud in history between the organisation and an IT company. Facebook was accused of being too dependent on coal-fired electricity and has since, adopted policies for facilities that state a preference for access to clean and renewable energy supply; research into energy-efficiency and the sharing of that technology; research into clean energy solutions for future data centres; and engagement in dialogue with utility providers about increasing the supply of clean energy that powers Facebook data centres.

The company still has a long, and costly road ahead if it is to catch up to Apple’s data centres that currently run on 100% renewable energy however the progress made to date, and the move to make public both energy stats and reports, are an encouraging move for eco-minded Facebook fans everywhere.

Questions about Facebook and its drive to cleaner data centres? Leave them below!

image credit: psylum