SAN JOSE, Calif. – Facebook will start rolling out in its data centers next year smaller, more powerful servers based on Intel Sandy Bridge and AMD Bulldozer processors and 10 Gbit Ethernet links. The social networking site currently uses Intel Westmere and AMD Magny Cours chips and Gbit Ethernet links.
"The way the economics play out, it could cost us tens of millions of dollars if we were still deploying Westmere and other older processors in January," said Amir Michael, manager of hardware design at Facebook in a keynote address at the Server Design Summit here.
The new chips come on a board that fits in a half-sized 1.5U slot. Facebook's current server board design requires a full 1.5U slot.
The new server boards will have 10 Gbit/s Ethernet on board linking via 40 Gbit/s Ethernet to top-of-rack switches. Its current boards use Gbit Ethernet linking to top-of-rack switches via two 10 Gbit Ethernet copper connections.
The current racks are rated for up to 6.5 KW of power. The next-generation racks will consume up to 14 KW.
The social networking site now runs tens of thousands of servers in two of its own data centers in the U.S. It is building a third data center in Sweden to keep pace with an estimated 800 million users.
Facebook is making all of its customer server and data center designs openly available as part of its Open Compute Project.
"We want others to do this engineering so Facebook doesn’t have to have a large team of engineers," said Michael. "Traditional data center infrastructure is expensive, but if we can cut down that cost maybe it won't be such a barrier to entry for other Web startups," he said.
The company also hopes its efforts enable any engineer to develop server designs without needing expensive EDA and test tools or prototyping fees Facebook pays for today.
"To spin a motherboard cost tens of thousands of dollars, and we want to see if we can we get that price down," he said. "Someone hacking in their garage can't participate in this project yet" due to such barriers, he added.
Michael was peppered with questions and attention from chip and systems vendors here. However some of the vendors noted Facebook's designs are optimized to serve its social networking Web site. Other big data centers and applications have different designs and needs, they said.
"There's a proliferation of [emerging server] platforms, and it will be increasingly challenging to find the optimal implementation," said Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel's cloud infrastructure group in a separate keynote.
"It's no longer one size fits all, and I've seen more innovation in servers in the last two years than in the previous 10," said Robert Hormuth, a director of server architecture at Dell Inc., speaking in another keynote.