Facebook Data Center Real Estate Leadership

Whenever Facebook, one of the world’s largest Internet data center users, makes movements in its data center real estate, it draws attention. The social media giant, one of the highest profile content providers and cloud users, experienced a significant hike in its data center energy usage in 2012, with its servers using 678 million kilowatt hours of electricity, a rise from the 509 million kWh in 2011.

“The surge in Facebook’s energy usage was expected, as the company has been massively scaling up its data center infrastructure to keep pace with growth in its audience, which now includes more than 1 billion monthly users,” Rich Miller of Data Center Knowledge recently wrote.

Facebook’s move away from California data centers located closer to company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., to more eastern and northern locales was preceded by years of intense planning. According to Facebook staff, the first step in diversifying Facebook’s data center footprint was a significant re-architecture of their software that would allow the company to create distinct deployments that were less sensitive to latency and geography.

Facebook’s two industrial scale facilities, in Prineville, Ore., and North Carolina, are among the most economical in the U.S. In addition to power that is priced well below the national average of approximately 7 cents per kWh, the facilities are also highly efficient, owing to Facebook’s custom data center design methods that run from the facility to the servers themselves. These methods, now being shared as an “open” initiative, limit Facebook’s server costs with an average PUE for its company-constructed sites of 1.08.

The development of Facebook’s industrial data centers has also created several interesting trickle-down effects for data center providers and users. One development is that Facebook is now exiting numerous data centers in Silicon Valley, where the company’s electric usage decreased 18 percent in 2012. The demand of Facebook has occupied as much as 30 percent of the market in Silicon Valley, from year to year in the past, and with the firm now placing its sites on the market, there is reason to be cautious around pricing for wholesale and large retail footprints in Silicon Valley.

While Facebook may be exiting Silicon Valley, their use of Ashburn data centers has grown, rising from 205 million kWh to 237 million kWh of electricity usage in 2012, according to Miller. Facebook as well as LinkedIn have both indicated that they intend to concentrate further investment in Virginia data centers in the coming years in order to scale up their architecture to meet ever-increasing demand.

Nebraska and Iowa engaged in data center competition
The ramifications of Facebook’s data center maneuvers continue to play out in data center research and development across the country. Earlier this year, Iowa beat out Nebraska in a hotly contested battle to host a Facebook data center project. After much deliberation, Facebook selected Altoona, Iowa over Kearney, Neb., for the site of its data center project. Now, the two states are again engaged in a competition for the data center location of an as-yet-unnamed “Fortune 200” company, reported Des Moines Register business writer Donnelle Eller. Officials in Sarpy County, Neb., recently applied for $750,000 in state incentives that would go toward an estimated $3.6 million that the company, county and utilities providers would shoulder to make infrastructure improvements. The data center is expected to cost $200 million overall.

Both Iowa and Nebraska have been upping their presence in the cyber data center market. Facebook’s Altoona data center, for example, received a property tax abatement for its first 20 years of use, in addition to $18 million in state tax credits, Eller reported. Google and Microsoft have also invested in Iowa data centers. Yahoo has had a presence in La Vista, Neb., since 2010, and Fidelity announced a $200 million data center in Papillion, Neb., in 2012.

Leave a Comment