An Exclusive Look at Facebooks Data Center

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An Exclusive Look at Facebooks Data Center

by Chris Preimesberger

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Colocation and interconnection specialist Switch & Data, a fast-growing colocation company, has properties all over the United States that harbor some very important clients. Among them are a large number of telecommunications companies, content providers, financial institutions, colleges and universities, as well as NASA, Web 2.0-type businesses and a list of smaller—though no less important—enterprises.Switch & Data, as a provider of network-neutral data centers that house, power and interconnect the Internet, operates 34 sites in the United States and Canada. It is also home to PAIX, the world's first commercial Internet exchange. In the colocation business, data center properties are liable to be found anywhere: in the central city, near hydroelectric power in the country, in an outlying suburb—even in ships at dock, which appears to be an emerging trend. One of S&D's most...

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S&D's downtown Palo Alto data center, one door from University Avenue, is a key property for the $300 million colocation company. Located on the site of the first school building in the town's history, the current structure was built in 1928 and rebuilt in 1991. It was the local phone company's headquarters for generations.

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The three-story structure—which is fairly nondescript from the front, has two-feet-thick walls, complete earthquake-safe reconstruction, an operational basement level, an operational rooftop area and ultra-tight security.

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NASA, Facebook, Stanford University, Forbes.com and nine telecommunications companies rent space there, among other enterprises. Its central location connects six fiber-optic lines with the rest of the world and can support power densities of 200 watts per square foot.

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The Palo Alto data center has about 100,000 square feet of space, which is almost filled to capacity with tenants. It takes approximately 25 megawatts of power from the grid daily; it also has what a staff member call its own "virtual power substation" to ensure flow of power in case of a natural disaster or other event.

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Security cameras are evident all around the location. All floors feature cutting-edge, liquid-cooled servers racks, so that minimal power is used for air-conditioning. In fact, room temperature on all floors is around 72 degrees, unlike the chilly confines of most older data centers.

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The data center fits right in to the flow of downtown Palo Alto without drawing attention to itself. Inside, it features two new diesel-power UPSes (uninterruptible power supplies) the size of train engines that are tested monthly.

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