Facebook Breaks Ground on Custom Data Center in Prineville, Ore.

Facebook announced that it broke ground on its first custom data center, located in Prineville, Ore., in a post on the Facebook Blog by vice president of technical operations Jonathan Heiliger.

Heiliger described green initiatives in the construction of the new facility, including the use of an evaporative cooling system, bringing in cooler air from the outside to cool the facility, the reusing of heat generated by servers and the use of a proprietary uninterruptible-power-supply technology.

As for Facebook’s thinking in constructing the data center, Heiliger posted:

When Facebook first began with a small group of people using it and no photos or videos to display, the entire service could run on a single server. However, as the site expanded to different colleges around the United States, we needed to add more servers and data-center capacity to keep up with the increasing number of people who were joining every day.

Initially, as most Internet start-ups do, we leased data-center space alongside other companies in the same building. As our user base continued to grow and we developed Facebook into a much richer service, we reached the point where it was more efficient to lease entire buildings on our own. We are now ready to build our own.

It is important to understand what a data center is and how it impacts your Facebook experience. A data center is a central location that houses thousands of computer servers, which are networked together and linked to the outside world through fiber-optic cables. Think of a data center as essentially one very large computer that contains the collective computing infrastructure to make Web properties, like Facebook, work.

When you create a profile on Facebook, the information you share is captured in servers located in a data center. So when you update your status, post and comment on photos or videos or otherwise communicate with friends, these servers receive your actions, compute them and then act quickly so that you see your actions completed in seconds.