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Facebook unveils Ikea-style 'flat pack' data centre project

07 Mar 2014
A rendering of the Facebook Lulea 2 Rapid Deployment Data Center

Facebook has begun work on a second huge data centre project in Sweden, based on a new, lightweight design.

The new Luleå 2 data centre will be built alongside a pre-existing building, which was opened last year, but will use a new Rapid Deployment Data Centre (RDDC) design.

Facebook says the RDDC concept is intended to be constructed quickly but with long-term efficiency in mind, comparing the "flat pack" design to products made by Swedish furniture retailer Ikea. All the lessons learned from the build will be made available to members of Facebook's Open Compute Project.

"RDDC involves the use of pre-made modular sections that are assembled onsite, reducing the duration and local impact of building work," it explained. "Just as the great Swedish company Ikea revolutionised how furniture is designed and built, we hope that Luleå 2 will become a model for the next generation of data centres."

The construction will use steel frame chassis, which will take up less space in transit. Facebook will also employ a flat pack approach in order to construct the walls of the data centre to minimise the amount of onsite construction work.

A diagram of the Facebook RDDC

Facebook data centre designer Marco Magarelli explained that both the steel frame concept and the flat pack approach were early on in their development, but that in the long run they would allow for ubiquitous, quickly deployable and efficient data centres.

"We expect this new approach to data center design will enable us to construct and deploy new capacity twice as fast as our previous approach. We also believe it will prove to be much more site-agnostic and will greatly reduce the amount of material used in the construction."

As the location of the Luleå data centres are close to the Arctic Circle, the facilities are cooled with air pumped in from the outside instead of using air conditioning. The original Luleå data centre operates at a power usage effectiveness (PUE) number of approximately 1.05, meaning very little energy is used for anything other than the servers themselves.

Facebook said that elsewhere in the industry, PUE figures of 2 or more "are not uncommon". The power that is consumed is generated entirely from a hydroelectric generator situated on the nearby Lule river.

Construction on Luleå 2 will begin "shortly", according to the firm.

In November 2013, Facebook urged European firms to consider the Open Compute Project, saying uptake on the continent was slower than in other areas.

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Michael Passingham
About

Michael Passingham joined V3 as a reporter in June 2013. Prior to working at V3, Michael spent time at computing magazine PC Pro. Michael covers IT skills, social media, tech startups and also produces V3's video content.

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