Facebook to Build ‘Cold Storage’ Archive for Old Photos in Prineville

Facebook unveiled its plans to build a ‘cold storage’ facility in Oregon to archive users’ old data.

The social networking giant is planning to build storage facility in Oregon that will be used to archive users’ old photographs, messages and other postings. Photo: Tristan Stevens/Flickr

According to December 2012 data, Facebook has more than one billion monthly active users and 618 million daily active users on average.

One of the biggest challenges for the site is the amount of users’ data it has to save, 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 last year.

Parikh went on, adding that there are 220 billion photos stored on the company’s datacentres with 300 million new pictures added every day. He also revealed that it total users share about 2.5 billion content objects everyday on Facebook.

“The conventional way of dealing with data doesn’t apply to us,” Facebook’s vice-president for infrastructure said at the time.

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

The company’s employees explained that just 8 per cent of the billions of images it holds account got around 85 per cent of traffic at any given time.

The other aim of keeping that data readily available a fast data centre and the rest in a relatively slow-running facility is to slash Facebook’s 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 facility will join two existing data centres in Prineville, capable of storing an Exabyte of data, the equivalent of 250 million DVDs full of information, writes The Telgraph.

In the soon-to-be-built cold storage data centre, more hard drives will be connected to each server computer. It means that a photo will take marginally longer to access but efficiency will be significantly increased, as servers consume a lot of electricity to carry out their computing work.

“The principle will be so that it doesn’t impact the user experience – so think about a matter of seconds, or milliseconds,” said Michael Kirkland, a Facebook communication manager.

The computers will be in a sleep mode when the network’s postings they store are not being accessed. However, the most popular data required by users 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, thus, putting some into an idle state will later double energy savings.

The social networking giant revealed that it used about 71 million kilowatts of power in the first nine months of its operations in Prineville – equivalent to the power use in 6,000 homes. Now the total is expected to rise as more of the facility comes online.

Few technology companies have to store and to operate more data than Facebook. But data collection and analysis is key in many kinds of industries, and the volume of data is rapidly accumulating all over, Oregon Live says.

“We’re kind of at the forefront of that problem,” Kirkland said, “but pretty soon it’s going to be everyone’s problem.”

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