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Facebook's Newest Datacenter Relies On Arctic Cooling 106

Nerval's Lobster writes "One year and seven months after beginning construction, Facebook has brought its first datacenter on foreign soil online. That soil is in Lulea, town of 75,000 people on northern Sweden's east coast, just miles south of the boundary separating the Arctic Circle from the somewhat-less-frigid land below it. Lulea (also nicknamed The Node Pole for the number of datacenters in the area) is in the coldest area of Sweden and shares the same latitude as Fairbanks, Alaska, according to a local booster site. The constant, biting wind may have stunted the growth of Lulea's tourism industry, but it has proven a big factor in luring big IT facilities into the area. Datacenters in Lulea are just as difficult to power and cool as any other concentrated mass of IT equipment, but their owners can slash the cost of cooling all those servers and storage units simply by opening a window: the temperature in Lulea hasn't stayed at or above 86 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours since 1961, and the average temperature is a bracing 29.6 Fahrenheit. Air cooling might prove a partial substitute for powered environmental control, but Facebook's datacenter still needed 120megawatts of steady power to keep the social servers humming. Sweden has among the lowest electricity costs in Europe, and the Lulea area reportedly has among the lowest power costs in Sweden. Low electricity prices are at least partly due to the area's proximity to the powerful Lulea River and the line of hydroelectric dams that draw power from it."
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Facebook's Newest Datacenter Relies On Arctic Cooling

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  • by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:29PM (#44003473) Homepage Journal

    Heat needs somewhere to flow to, in order to make it valuable as a power source. Simply being very hot isn't sufficient. That said, the amount of light falling on the region IS directly usable as a power source, and with very little population or wildlife to disturb, this may prove quite an attractive place to gather solar power. Since transmission of power is one of its major cost factors, the data centers may well follow.

  • That isn't very cold (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @10:44PM (#44003571)

    Thanks to wind and ocean currents all of Europe is warmer than many places in North America at the same latitude. Wisconsin gets colder than this place. I think it has more to do with abundant water and better year round temperature consistency.

  • Heat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 13, 2013 @11:01PM (#44003653)

    Lulea is a major center of the iron mining industry of northern Sweden, which produces massive amounts of waste heat. This is used to great advantage by the town already, and when Facebook asked the town if they should just went into the atmosphere or if they wanted to use the waste heat, the town said "no, thank you." Source: I'm a native of Lulea.

  • Re:Not for long... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Friday June 14, 2013 @01:51AM (#44004323)
    Ok... I'm a loser and can't keep my nose out of this.

    When you're developing a system on the scale of FaceBook and running on a language like PHP and the article is about building yet another data center with a 120 megawatt draw, maybe the comment you're responding to could have some value.

    Let's imagine for a moment that having two departments of developers, one who designs and builds a PHP version of the site and a second who reimplements the functionality using more optimal languages... we can see these people as being human compilers. When you're running a system on this scale, if you can improve performance of your code by 10% by using a more optimal language, you could effectively reduce your need for power by 10%. When you're measuring your power consumption in hundreds of megawatts, somehow, I figure that might be attractive.

    So, let's suggest for a moment that UI designers and database developers aren't always the most optimal coders. I know, who'd have though? Now let's imagine that there's programmers who adore sitting around cutting a few clock cycles off here and there (there are). While PHP may give you a huge amount of flexibility, it comes at a huge cost. It requires developers to use a huge amount of string processing to accomplish relatively trivial tasks. PHP makes it look like a single line of code, but in reality, that single line, if substituted with a few lines of hand optimized code could use less than a hundredth of the CPU power. Now consider that even with projects like HipHop, the code given to the system is heavily burdened with table lookups which can't be replaced programatically by an optimal compiler.

    So, I'm going to give both of your statements merit. First because you're defending the technology as an enabler. He's bashing the technology because of lack of efficiency. I agree with you that PHP scales fantastically in this case, that however does not mean it does it in an optimal fashion which I think should be seen as the spirit of his posting.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.