From the outside, it looks like an enormous, anonymous grey warehouse.
Inside, there is a hint of the movie Bladerunner: long cavernous corridors, spinning computer servers with flashing blue lights and the hum of giant fans. Welcome to the Node Pole, in Luleå, northern Sweden, the site of Facebook’s first data centre outside the US. Inaugurated in 2011 and set amid a green pine forest, lakes and an archipelago.
Facebook has four giant data centres in the US. The construction of the Swedish data halls is in response to the huge amounts of electronic data being generated around the world.
Niall Mcentegart heads the Facebook data centre:
“As you can see, there is very little in the way of bezels, or anything that’s not needed to be there. They are vanity-free designs to allow the air to flow through them as easily as possible, but also to allow our technicians to repair them as easily and fast as we can. And that has allowed us to use just one technician, typically, for anywhere between 25 to 45-thousand servers here in Lulea.”
According to Facebook, its Luleå data centre is one of the most energy efficient computing facility ever built. It is cold in the Node Pole: winter averages are -20C.
Freezing air from outside is pumped into the building. It acts as a natural coolant, with hot air generated by the servers circulating out. Walls of axial fans keep temperatures constant. Facebook adds this is is an environmentally friendly data center.
“The location here in Lulea is pretty unique in that there are two completely independent power grids here, all supplied by hydroelectric power. So, the power that supplies everything that you see around you, all this equipment and this entire data centre is 100 percent clean, carbon free.”
In fact, the location was also chosen for its electricity supply. A century ago, Sweden began building hydroelectric dams for its steel, iron ore and pulp and paper industries.
World Wildlife Fund representatives say it is very important that the energy that is produced for the data centre comes from renewable energy. But they add that data centres help to reduce emissions for other reasons.
Stefan Henningsson is a climate change scientist at the WWF.
“We also have to remember that with data and data centres, we get smarter societies, they actually helps us to lower our emissions. Partly because we can communicate more and develop a better understanding between different parts of the world. But also because we can do things like video conferences that can cut down on our travels.”
Environmentalists claim that Facebook took a little persuading before it got serious about environmental issues.
This data centre has given the social networking giant an opportunity to boost its green credentials.