Facebook continues data center innovation with Swedish expansion
Monday, Mar 10th 2014

The Swedish-based company IKEA prides itself on supplying the kind of do-it-yourself furniture that can be assembled in an afternoon (or a lunch break) and last for years to come. The sleek utilitarian design of IKEA furniture has gained global popularity for its ease of construction and durability. What if the same philosophy behind IKEA's furniture could be applied to a data center? Facebook asked that exact question, and its newest data center expansion provides the answer.

A data center expansion with efficiency at every stage
Facebook announced that it plans to begin the construction of a second Luleå, Sweden data center less than a year after the first one began operation. But the social networking giant is taking a different approach to the construction of Luleå 2 - and it is a method informed by the efficiency of IKEA, according to Wired. Just as IKEA manages to fit ostensibly unwieldy furniture pieces into extremely thin and transportable boxes, Facebook plans to furnish its new center with equipment shipped in similarly space-efficient, tightly sealed packaging.

The method is part of a process that Facebook calls "Rapid Deployment Data Center" designs, which ships pre-made equipment that require very little labor to assemble once they reach their destination. Through this method, Facebook hopes to expedite the process of building its data center, and along the way perhaps change how people view facility construction.

"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," the company said in the blog post.

Facebook has a good reputation for data center construction in Sweden
Fortunately for Facebook, the company has a good track record for data center construction and maintenance in Sweden. Though Lulea 1 has only been operational for less than a year, it began making headlines back in 2011 when Facebook announced that the data room cooling would be a completely natural process, Computerworld reported. By strategically placing the center near the Arctic Circle, Facebook was able to ensure outside air cooling year-round, at no cost to the company. For the days when it got relatively warm, the company installed an evaporative cooling system to convert hot air into a functional cooling solution.

Apart from naturally maintaining a perfect server room temperature, Facebook was able to get Lulea locals involved in the project, recruiting community members to help fill out its 90-person permanent staff. The community-at-large did not view the center as a blemish, since its dependence on free air and low electricity usage kept its power usage effectiveness rating low.

How RDDC will work in practice
Because Luleå 2 will be the inaugural use of RDDC designs, it remains to be seen how effective the system is in making data center construction more efficient. But according to Wired, the system looks poised to run like a well-oiled machine. Boxes will arrive at their destination with the pieces of equipment inside tightly sealed. Once removed from the boxes, workers will consult short, easy-to-follow instructions. Far from the complicated process one imagines, the construction could be as simple as putting together a desk from IKEA.

Marco Magarelli, a Facebook design engineer, wrote a blog post in which he discussed the RDDC design. According to him, the system has the potential to cut manual labor onsite significantly. Whereas most of the equipment for the typical data center, including cooling systems, must be built onsite - a cumbersome and time-intensive process - with RDDC most of that work will be done before the equipment even reaches the location.