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Facebook to share energy-saving technology developed for data center

April 08, 2011|By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Francisco — Facebook is planning to increase the energy efficiency of its data centers around the globe with the launch of the Open Compute Project, an initiative to share the technology it developed for its data center in rural Oregon.

The popular social networking site said the technology had delivered a 38% increase in energy efficiency while lowering costs 24%.

Facebook announced its plans at its Palo Alto headquarters Wednesday.

Running energy-efficient data centers has become increasingly important for Internet companies. They are developing innovative technologies to save money and conserve energy as well as to address criticisms that they aren't doing enough to minimize the harm these energy-hogging centers can cause to the environment.

But technology companies mostly keep the details of these technologies under wraps. Forrester Research analyst Richard Fichera said Facebook was reversing that trend by disclosing a "wealth of information" about the design of its data center in Oregon.

In a blog post, he said Facebook had created "one of the most efficient large data centers in the world."

Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of Facebook's technical operations, said technology companies needed to "stop treating data centers like 'Fight Club,' " a reference to that movie's famous line, "The first rule of fight club is you do not talk about fight club."

Facebook is banking that releasing the information so that other Web companies can use it will lead to an ecosystem of equipment suppliers and ultimately lower energy use — and costs — for the social network. Facebook is building a data center in North Carolina in addition to the one it has in Oregon, and also has several leased facilities in California and Virginia.

The environmental group Greenpeace has been a longtime critic of Facebook's energy use. Greenpeace climate campaigner Casey Harrell commended Facebook for working to increase the energy efficiency of its business and data centers, but called on the company to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Facebook's efforts to cut its energy use began two years ago, before Greenpeace began targeting Facebook. The group has singled out Facebook, one of a handful of Internet companies that are heavy energy users. Greenpeace has challenged Facebook to commit to phase out its use of coal by April 22, Earth Day.

jessica.guynn@latimes.com

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