Facebook plans 'cold storage' for old photos in Prineville [The Oregonian, Portland, Ore.]
(Oregonian (Portland, OR) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 20--PRINEVILLE -- Remember that silly picture of your kid's birthday The one you posted on Facebook a couple years back
Well, it's still there. So are more than 240 billion other photos and billions more videos and status updates. Facebook's users add another 350 million photos every day.
Facebook knows you might want to see your old photos again someday. Or scroll back through your Timeline to revisit your posts as an online diary. But storing all those pictures -- and keeping them immediately available -- takes a lot of space.
Not in the physical sense, but in the virtual. That means lots of hard drives, lots of storage -- and lots of energy.
So Facebook is preparing to try out a more efficient storage system at its Prineville data center, "cold storage" for those archival posts that people don't need every day, but that they don't want to lose altogether.
Facebook says 82 percent of its traffic is focused on just 8 percent of its photos. Its cold storage facility is designed to create a more efficient way to store those photos that aren't in heavy rotation.
The cold storage building is just a skeletal frame now, and a concrete pad. Facebook hopes to have the first of three phases up and running by fall. Each of the three 16,000-square-foot data hubs could hold an exabyte of data -- equivalent to 1 million hard drives inside a contemporary PC.
Facebook already has two massive data centers in Prineville, the first the company built anywhere. The tens of thousands of servers inside those buildings are always on, ready to deliver your pictures and musings to your Facebook friends around the world.
By contrast, most of the computers in the new cold storage facility will be asleep. A few will be alert, awaiting a request for old material and ready to summon the slumbering computers to provide their data. This material won't reach your computer as quickly as something posted just a few hours ago -- but Facebook says it won't take long.
"The principle will be so that it doesn't impact the user experience -- so think about a matter of seconds, or milliseconds," said Michael Kirkland, a Facebook communication manager.
Facebook estimates a cold-storage data center will cost one-third less than its standard data center. It designed the cold storage facilities to be smaller than live data centers -- each rack of servers has eight times more storage than in "hot storage" -- and five times more energy efficient. That's a big consideration in the data center industry, which uses mammoth amounts of electricity to power and cool its computers.
Facebook says it used 71 million kilowatts of power in the first nine months of its operations in Prineville -- equivalent to the power use in 6,000 homes. That total will continue to rise as more of the facility comes online.
Few technology companies accumulate more data than Facebook, which has more than 1 billion members. But data collection and analysis is key in many kinds of industries, and the volume of data is rapidly accumulating all over.
"We're kind of at the forefront of that problem," Kirkland said, "but pretty soon it's going to be everyone's problem."
-- Mike Rogoway; twitter: @rogoway; phone: 503-294-7699
(c)2013 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)
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