Facebook is to build a vast new “cold storage” facility to archive all the messages, photos and other postings its one billion members rarely look at.
A 16,000-square-foot data centre under construction in Prineville, Oregon, is designed to cut the costs of storing and serving the world’s memories by providing a more efficient home for older and less popular material.
Facebook’s figures say that just 8 per cent of the billions of images it holds account got around 85 per cent of traffic at any given time. By keeping that data readily available a fast data centre and the rest in a relatively slow-running facility, it aims to slash its energy costs.
“The principle will be so that it doesn’t impact the user experience – so think about a matter of seconds, or milliseconds,” a spokesman said.
The new cold storage facility will join two existing data centres in Prineville. Each is capable of storing an Exabyte of data, the equivalent of 250 million DVDs full of information.
In the new data centre, more hard drives will be connected to each server computer, reports The Oregonian. It will mean a photo will take marginally longer to access but increase efficiency, as servers consume a lot of electricity to carry out their computing work.
The computers will also go into a sleep mode when the Facebook postings they store are not being accessed, whereas the most popular photos and messages will be handled by servers that are always on.
The heat generated by keeping servers on all the time also means they must be cooled, so putting some into an idle state will offer double energy savings.
The social network has said that its members upload an average of 300 million photographs every day. The figure has grown rapidly with the rapid uptake of smartphones in recent years. Images are by far Facebook’s biggest storage challenge, even though it does allow members to upload video files.
As well as the cold storage facility on Oregon, Facebook is constructing a large data centre in Sweden, just south of the Arctic Circle, its first outside the United States. It will take advantage of the freezing temperatures to cut the cost of keeping servers cool.
Issuing its end of year financial report earlier this month, Facebook said it will continuie to invest heavily in infrastructure throughout 2013.