Zuck’s photos from Facebook’s futuristic Arctic data center

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Zuck’s photos from Facebook’s futuristic Arctic data center

Why pay for air conditioning when you can just build a data center near the Arctic Circle and pump in the frosty winds? That’s why Facebook created these massive fans for its Luleå, Sweden data center. In hopes of proving that Facebook’s 10-year plan goes way beyond the News Feed, Mark Zuckerberg has begun sharing rare photos of the company’s technology. Here’s his photo essay of the Luleå facility’s sci-fi designs, with some added TechCrunch commentary.


Warm Your Hands By The Server

“I love this shot because it looks like a sci-fi movie. These enormous fans draw in the outside air to cool the tens of thousands of servers in the data hall. In the winter, when temperatures plunge to -30 degrees the situation is reversed, and the heat from the servers warm the massive buildings.” -Zuckerberg

Most data centers spend a fortune trying to keep servers from overheating, but in Luleå, sometimes the building actually needs that heat!


A Ghost Data Center

“About 150 people work here, but the data halls are frequently empty. Because of the simplified design, we need only one technician for every 25,000 servers.” -Zuckerberg

Facebook launched the Open Compute Project in 2011 to share and crowdsource designs for eco-friendly, energy efficient data centers and servers.


The Pipe Organ Of Human Communication

“There’s a beauty in all of this. It’s like a massive and very well-orchestrated machine, where everything works in concert and allows people across the planet to communicate and share in an incredibly efficient way.”

– Joel Kjellgren, Luleå Site Manager


The Size Of Six Football Fields

“The main data hall is so big that engineers move around on scooters.” – Zuckerberg

Facebook’s first few massive headquarters in California were known for engineers wobbling around on self-propelling skateboards called Ripstiks…though there were so many injuries that the company had to discourage their use.


Nerdmusement Park

“Look at these racks, the network devices, the cabling. Everything is like reference model!”

– Max Zavyalov, Network Engineer in Edge & Network Services team


Nestled Near The Arctic Circle

“The small town of Luleå is less than 70 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and it’s typically pretty cold. The temperature in the area is below 50 degrees most days, so we use large fans to pull in the outside air to naturally cool the thousands of warm servers. The whole system is 10% more efficient and uses almost 40% less power than traditional data centers.” -Zuckerberg

This power efficiency adds up to huge cost savings for Facebook, since it stores the world’s largest archive of photos, and is increasingly hosting tons of video.


Great For Energy Efficiency, Hard On Humans

“The biggest challenge working here? Getting to the data center by car when it is -30 degrees C outside!”

– Emilie De Clercq, Data Center Technician


From Cool Idea To Ice Cold Data Center

“The data center is huge, but the idea that launched it began on the back of this paper napkin. Late one night, while traveling, engineer Jay Park sketched his vision for a system that streamlined the way power moves from the local utility grid to our servers.” – Zuckerberg

Nowadays, the Open Compute Project includes Google, IBM, Microsoft, AT&T and more giant companies that contribute ideas like this to help all tech companies make the world a little greener.


Not Just Some Ugly Building

“The center opened in 2013, and was our first outside the US. Wherever possible, we used the beautiful wood and art of the area to showcase local craftsmanship.” -Zuckerberg

The Luleå facility is powered almost entirely by renewable energy from a dozen nearby hydroelectric dams. Between the cold and the power, it was a brilliant place to build a data center.


On Behalf Of 1.71 Billion

“Working here is to be trusted with great responsibilities since this is a really important center for all our users. I like the challenge to not only do my best, but also to always find better and more safe solutions for us.”
– Joakim Karlson, Mechanical Systems Specialist


Clean Lines Of Communication

“The building’s exterior reflects the innovative designs inside.” -Zuckerberg

Facebook has also built data centers in Prineville, Oregon,
Forest City, North Carolina and Altoona, Iowa. Spreading them out across the United States ensures the fastest possible loading times for its home market, while the Luleå facility keeps things speedy in Europe.


Unfinished On Purpose

“The equipment is reduced to its basics so it runs cooler. It can also be easily accessed and repaired quickly. A few years ago, it took an hour to repair a server hard drive. At Luleå, that’s down to two minutes.” -Zuckerberg

One of the Open Compute Project’s massive innovations was stripping out a lot of the casings that surround servers. Instead of needing a trained technician to unscrew and uninstall a device before it can be prepared, now Facebook’s servers can be slid around and instantly serviced.


The Data Undertaker

“It is important for people to know that nothing leaves the site and their data is safe. The old drives are destroyed.”

– Christer Jonsson, Server Technician


Bits Turned To Scattered Atoms

“Old and obsolete hard drives are crunched, forever protecting privacy. Christer Jonsson is in charge of this important task. ‘I must be very careful,’ he says.” -Zuckerberg

Since Facebook stores so much sensitive personal data, any devices it discards must be destroyed so that data can’t be resurrected.


Hopefully Tom Cruise Won't Drop In

“It’s a very important job, and I am very proud to be trusted with that responsibility.”

– Linnéa Svallfors, Security Officer


Saving The Environment, One Server At A Time

“There is no more efficient data center in the world.”

– Jay Park, Director of Data Center Design Engineering


Inside Facebook's "Area 404" Hardware Lab

For more futuristic pics of Facebook’s tech, check out our tour of its new hardware laboratory.