On Facebook’s Massive Data Center near the Arctic

A fascinating look in Businessweek at Facebook’s data center in a Swedish town of Luleå (population 75,000), located about 70 miles from the Arctic Circle:

The heart of Facebook’s experiment lies just south of the Arctic Circle, in the Swedish town of Luleå. In the middle of a forest at the edge of town, the company in June opened its latest megasized data center, a giant building that comprises thousands of rectangular metal panels and looks like a wayward spaceship. By all public measures, it’s the most energy-efficient computing facility ever built, a colossus that helps Facebook process 350 million photographs, 4.5 billion “likes,” and 10 billion messages a day. While an average data center needs 3 watts of energy for power and cooling to produce 1 watt for computing, the Luleå facility runs nearly three times cleaner, at a ratio of 1.04 to 1. “What Facebook has done to the hardware market is dramatic,” says Tom Barton, the former chief executive officer of server maker Rackable Systems (SGI). “They’re putting pressure on everyone.”

There’s a reason why they chose this place:

The location has a lot to do with the system’s efficiency. Sweden has a vast supply of cheap, reliable power produced by its network of hydroelectric dams. Just as important, Facebook has engineered its data center to turn the frigid Swedish climate to its advantage. Instead of relying on enormous air-conditioning units and power systems to cool its tens of thousands of computers, Facebook allows the outside air to enter the building and wash over its servers, after the building’s filters clean it and misters adjust its humidity. Unlike a conventional, warehouse-style server farm, the whole structure functions as one big device.

To simplify its servers, which are used mostly to create Web pages, Facebook’s engineers stripped away typical components such as extra memory slots and cables and protective plastic cases. The servers are basically slimmed-down, exposed motherboards that slide into a fridge-size rack. The engineers say this design means better airflow over each server. The systems also require less cooling, because with fewer components they can function at temperatures as high as 85F. (Most servers are expected to keel over at 75F.)

Now you know where those photos and messages are stored!

The Many Voices of @Sweden

One of the great things currently unfolding on Twitter is the @Sweden Twitter account. The program, known as Curators of Sweden, came about when the Swedish Institute and Visit Sweden, the government tourist agency, sought to develop a plan to present the country to the world on Twitter. They hired an advertising company, Volontaire.

To qualify to post for the @Sweden account, one must “be interesting,” Twitter-literate, and happy to post in English.

The New York Times profiles a few people who’ve had the privilege for speaking for the Nordic nation.

On the benefits of posting for @Sweden for a young man named Erik Isberg:

The authorities at his school waived their usual rule against in-class tweeting (one teacher told Mr. Isberg he could skip all his classes, if he needed more time to post).

The success of the @Sweden account has inspired similar Twitter initiatives from other countries and travel sites.

File-Sharing as Religion

Well, this is interesting. File-sharing has been declared an official religion in Sweden:

Since 2010 a group of self-confessed pirates have tried to get their beliefs recognized as an official religion in Sweden. After their request was denied several times, the Church of Kopimism – which holds CTRL+C and CTRL+V as sacred symbols – is now approved by the authorities as an official religion. The Church hopes that its official status will remove the legal stigma that surrounds file-sharing.

All around the world file-sharers are being chased by anti-piracy outfits and the authorities, and the situation in Sweden is no different. While copyright holders are often quick to label file-sharers as pirates, there is a large group of people who actually consider copying to be a sacred act.

This is from their official press release:

For the Church of Kopimism, information is holy and copying is a sacrament. Information holds a value, in itself and in what it contains, and the value multiplies through copying. Therefore, copying is central for the organisation and its members.

Being recognized by the state of Sweden is a large step for all of kopimi. Hopefully, this is one step towards the day when we can live out our faith without fear of persecution, says Isak Gerson, spiritual leader of the Church of Kopimism.

The Missionary Church of Kopimism tripled its members from 1,000 to 3,000 in the second half of 2011. I just have one question: who (or what) is their God?