Facebook Critical of Google's Secrecy Around Data Center Design

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Facebook Prineville, Oregon data center manager Ken Patchett said it is “B.S.” that companies like Google keep their data center design a secret and view it as having a competitive advantage over their rivals, according to a report by Wired.

Patchett joined Facebook in April 2010, leaving his position at Google where he supervised the company`s The Dalles, Oregon data center campus.

He told Wired that when he joined Google he had to sign an agreement that prevented him from sharing any details about Google`s data center design for a minimum of a year after he left the company.

And while this kind of secrecy is a common “security” practice among large Internet companies like Google and Amazon, Patchett said this view “doesn’t make sense at all” because there is no competitive advantage to a company withholding their data center design.

“How servers work has nothing to do with the way your software works and the competitive advantage comes from manipulating your software,” Patchett told Wired.

Facebook launched the Open Compute Project initiative in April, sharing the custom-engineered design of its Prineville data center that features multiple rows of energy-efficient machines to cool the facility with outside air instead of electricy-intensive water chillers.

The innovative technology has helped the facility to achieve an initial power usage effectiveness ratio of 1.07, which is comparatively lower than most data centers which average about a 1.5.

The social media giant has published on its blog the technical specifications and mechanical CAD files for the Prineville data center’s servers, power supplies, server racks, battery backup systems and building design.

More recently, Open Compute Project partnered with data center organization The Open Data Center Alliance to define system and data center specifications to drive adoption of efficient data center and infrastructure design, stimulate rapid hardware innovation, and encourage greater openness and industry collaboration.

“The reason I came to Facebook is that they wanted to be open,” said Patchett. “With some companies I’ve worked for, your dog had more access to you than your family did during the course of the day. Here [at Facebook], my children have seen this data center. My wife has seen this data center…. We’ve had some people say, ‘Can we build this data center?’ And we say, ‘Of course, you can. Do you want the blueprints?`”

In a video clip posted on Wired`s blog, Panchett offers a full tour of Facebook`s Prineville data center where he discussed some of its key features.

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