Facebook Taps Intel's Xeon Processors

Facebook is planning to use "thousands" of Intel Xeon processors as the social networking site looks to expand its operations and its data center infrastructure. Facebook plans to use servers that use Intel 5400 series Xeon processors that are built on the chip maker's newer 45-nanometer manufacturing process.

Facebook is turning to Intel for the processing power needed to expand its data center infrastructure.

In a joint agreement announced July 31, Facebook will use "thousands" of Intel-based servers to expand its business operations and build out its data center infrastructure to meet the needs of customers who are using new media applications, such as video, within the social networking sites.

The agreements calls for Facebook to buy several thousand systems that use Intel's 5400 series quad-core Xeon processors, which are built on the chip maker's newer 45-nanometer process, which offer better performance and power savings than the older generation of Xeon chips built on 65-nm.

Intel will also work with Facebook to optimize its software to run on Intel Architecture, with a particular focus on tuning applications to run on multicore processors. At its recent F8 conference, Facebook announced that it would begin to expand its platform. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked 400,000 developers to connect their Web sites with Facebook. The use of Intel processors is expected to support the data center capacity required for that expansion.

The announcement is also a significant step for Intel as the chip maker looks to Web 2.0 companies such as Facebook as fertile ground to continue to grow its main x86 server chip business by showing that its microarchitecture can support large-scale Web applications.

The agreement will also demonstrate that Intel processors can support the massive data centers that will support cloud-computing infrastructures. While Facebook does not provide cloud-computing services per se, it does deliver Web-type services to its users on a scale that a cloud infrastructure can theoretically deliver business applications and computing power to enterprises on demand.

"It's a big win for Intel in the general category of Web infrastructure and by that I mean categories like cloud computing," said John Spooner, an analyst with Technology Business Research. "Facebook has a large computing infrastructure that delivers these types of Web services on demand and it requires the same level of service and infrastructure as a cloud-computing provider."

Earlier this week, Intel, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard announced a pact to develop a series of cloud computing centers for research and development.

While the agreement between Facebook and Intel did not mention specifics, it seems likely Facebook will use mid-range Xeon processors such as the E5410, which has a clock speed of 2.3GHz and a 1333MHz front side bus, compared to the more high-end models that have clock speeds of 3GHz or better.

A spokesperson for Facebook declined to comment on what specific OEMs would build the actual servers, but two sources confirmed that Facebook plans to use systems from HP and Dell.