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Facebook to build cold storage facility at Prineville datacentre for old photos

Archana Venkatraman

Facebook is planning to build a ‘cold storage’ facility at its Prineville datacentre facility in Oregon. It will be used to archive users’ old photographs, according to an article in the Oregonian.

The social media site has more than one billion monthly active users as of December 2012 and 618 million daily active users on average..

One of the biggest challenges for Facebook is the amount of data it has to store, secure and deliver on demand to its users, said Jay Parikh, Facebook’s vice-president for infrastructure when the company launched its first engineering centre in London in October 2012.

At that time Parikh added that there are 220 billion photos stored on Facebook’s datacentres with 300 million new pictures added every day. In addition, there are 2.5 billion content objects shared everyday on Facebook.

“The conventional way of dealing with data doesn’t apply to us,” Parikh said.

To overcome its big data storage challenge, the social media giant is building a cold storage facility that will be used exclusively to store users’ older pictures that they do not access on an everyday basis.

Facebook is planning three 16,000-square-foot cold storage data hubs and the first one will be ready by Autumn this year, according to the article in The Oregonian a major daily newspaper in Portland, Oregon.

Each of the cold storage facility will hold one exabyte of data.

An exabyte of storage is a large unit of computer data storage and could mean an equivalent of 50,000 years' worth of DVD-quality video.

Facebook has two datacentres at the Prineville site with each having a capacity of 330,000 ft2 The smaller cold storage facility will be added to the same site.

Storing its subscribers’ older photos and videos in the regular facility and making them available immediately takes up huge volumes of storage space and therefore uses more power and electricity.

The servers in its primary datacentres are always on to provide immediate access to users’ data.

But the servers in the cold storage facility will be on “sleep mode” and will kick-start only when there is a request for an archived picture.

While it will take longer to retrieve the picture from the dedicated cold storage hub than it is now, the response time will not be too long, Facebook’s communication manager Michael Kirkland told the Oregonian.

Having non-active servers will help it save on energy costs as it can cut the number of active servers in the traditional datacentres. 

Facebook Prineville datacentres began operations in 2011 and used 71 million kilowatts of power within its first year.


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