Do-It-Yourself: Facebook Building Storage Hardware

By David Cohen Comment

Facebook is expanding into hardware, and we’re not talking about wrenches and pliers: The social network is building its own storage hardware to store uploads from its user base.

Former Dell employee Frank Frankovsky is overseeing storage hardware design for Facebook, and he spoke with Wired about how an estimated 140 billion-plus digital images are stored, joking, “We store a few photos here and there.”

Frankovsky said Facebook is following the same strategy it employed in expanding its data center in Prineville, Oregon, cutting out components that did not add value to the process, such as electric chillers and uninterruptible power supplies. He told Wired:

We’re taking the same approach we took with servers: Eliminate anything that’s not directly adding value. The really valuable part of storage is the disk drive itself and the software that controls how the data gets distributed to and recovered from those drives. We want to eliminate any ancillary components around the drive and make it more serviceable.

As part of its Open Compute Project, Facebook open-sources its storage designs in an effort to slash the cost and power consumption of data center hardware, and Frankovsky told Wired companies including Apple have expressed interest or purchased hardware.

He would not elaborate on design matters, but Frankovsky did tell Wired that Facebook shunned hot-plug drive carriers, which allow for the installation and removal of drives without powering down the system, saying:

I’ve never understood why hot-plug drive carriers have to come with these plastic handles on them. And if you’ve actually mounted a drive inside one of those drive carriers, there are these little bitty screws that you inevitably lose — and you’ll likely lose one onto a board that’s live and powered. That’s not a good thing.

It’s a completely tool-less design. Our techs will be able to grab hold of a slam latch, pull it up, and the act of pulling it up will pop the drive out.