Facebook Is Building an Arctic Lair -- Er, Server Farm
Somehow I missed this the first time around -- which is weird because if news involves a giant subterranean structure near the Arctic Circle, I’m usually the first to know. It turns out Facebook’s memory needs have grown so large that the company is now situating new server farms in cooler climates to save on cooling costs.
No, really: Facebook is planning to build a giant server farm, composed of three huge galleries covering an area equivalent to 11 football fields, in the small city of Luleå in northern Sweden. Even with reduced cooling costs, the facility will consume 120 MW of electricity at a cost of $70 million per year; that’s enough power to supply a city with 16,000 houses.
Not to worry, green warriors: the power is all renewable, since it comes from hydroelectric damd on the Luleå River which produce twice as much power at the Hoover Dam. Meanwhile the server center will need relatively little new infrastructure, as Sweden already has one of the highest levels of fiber-optic cable penetration on the planet, in per capita terms. These factors should make northern Sweden attractive to other companies looking to build new data centers.
If you’re like me, the first thing you think of when you hear about giant arctic structures is, naturally, Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. On reflection, Superman didn’t really seem to have any compelling reasons -- e.g., lower cooling costs -- for locating his headquarters in the arctic wastes. Maybe it was the cheap hydroelectric power? Come to think of it, we actually saw very little of the master planning, programming, and design phases of that project.
The second thing the Facebook server farm reminds me of, with its huge scale, arctic locale, and hydroelectric power source, is some kind of vast Soviet engineering project (secret research cities in Siberia, nuclear submarine bases on the Arctic Ocean, etc.). Here’s hoping Facebook fares better than the Evil Empire.