Facebook Open Compute idea slammed by Greenpeace

Facebook's efforts to make its massive data centres and server farms more efficient have been slammed by environmentalists at Greenpeace for not going far enough.

The social networking outfit made a big deal of its plans to open up its technology to all and sundry, having spent two year scaling up its computing infrastructure in what it thinks is "the most efficient and economical way possible".

Facbook's project resulted in the firm building its own custom-designed servers, power supplies, server racks, and battery backup systems. The result, it said, was a data centre in Prineville, Oregan that uses 38 per cent less energy to do the same work as Facebook’s existing facilities, with a 24 per cent reduction in running costs.

Having put in the work the outfit yesterday shared it knowledge in what it calls the Open Compute Project - "an industry-wide initiative to share specifications and best practices for creating the most energy efficient and economical data centres".

The firm is publishing specifications and mechanical designs for the hardware used in the data centre, including motherboards, power supply, server chassis, server rack, and battery cabinets. It is also sharing its data centre electrical and mechanical construction specifications, which, it said, enabled the Prineville data centre to achieve an initial power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio of 1.07, compared with an average of 1.5 for its other facilities.

Responding to the plan, Greenpeace climate campaigner Casey Harrell said Facebook's work was commendable but failed to go far enough. "As the global warming footprint of the IT industry, and Facebook specifically, continues to grow significantly, a focus on energy efficiency alone will only slow the speeding train of unsustainable emissions growth. Efficiency is simply not enough," Harrell said in a statement emailed to thinq_.

“If Facebook wants to be a truly green company, it needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The way to do that is decouple its growth from its emissions footprint by using clean, renewable energy to power its business instead of dirty coal and dangerous nuclear power,” Harrell said, calling on the firm to "announce by Earth Day (April 22nd) that it will join a new type of revolution - an Energy Revolution - and commit to a plan to phase out its use of coal over the next decade.

"If it acts, Facebook users will know that the company is serious about being a clean energy leader and joining the ranks of other IT companies that are prioritising the use of renewable energy in their business.“

Greenpeace said that it, along with almost 700,000 Facebook users, had called upon Facebook to transition away from using coal, a 19th century technology, to power its 21st century services.