Facebook continues to accelerate its data center construction program. On Thursday the company announced plans to build another two huge buildings at its campus in Prineville, Oregon, where it built its very first data center back in 2011.
The new construction will bring Facebook’s total Prineville footprint to more than 3.2 million square feet across eight data center structures, making it one of the world’s largest cloud campuses. The company will spend an additional $750 million in the new phase, boosting its total investment in Prineville to $2 billion.
The continued super-sizing of its Oregon campus comes just 10 months after Facebook announced plans to build a fourth and fifth data center in Prineville. At the time, the company said those two new buildings would begin serving traffic in 2021.
Facebook has clearly accelerated its timeline. The two buildings announced today are scheduled to enter production in mid-2020 – earlier than the original timeline for the previous two buildings, which have also seen acceleration of their building schedules.
Shift to Video, AR Drives Growth
Facebook has been scaling up its infrastructure to handle massive growth in user photo uploads, including custom cold storage facilities and the use of BluRay disks to save energy on long-term storage. Video storage can be an even larger and more expensive storage challenge, as HD video files are substantially larger than photos. This has infrastructure implications. VR and 360-degree video applications require a LOT of data, and delivering these experiences across the Internet presents a major challenge. Virtual reality content could be 5 to 20 times the size of today’s full HD video.
Since the beginning of 2017, Facebook has announced five new cloud campuses. The social network now has 12 data center campuses around the globe, including nine in the U.S. and three in international markets. Facebook has nearly 15 million square feet of data center space completed or under construction, with another 5 million square feet in the planning stages. That includes the massive 11-story, 1.8 million square foot Facebook data center in Singapore.
Each of these cloud campuses features enough land to build at least three data centers, and sometimes as many as six. Each data center is approximately 1,000 feet long, and includes multiple data halls, each of which houses tens of thousands of servers that process and store the status updates, photos and videos that are shared by Facebook users.
Building Boom in Prineville
The project continues the explosion of Internet infrastructure in Prineville, a town of 9,928 residents on the high plains of central Oregon about 150 miles east of Portland. The town is also home to a major data center campus for Apple, which has built two large data centers and cleared ground to prepare for a third. At this point, it’s a given that Prineville houses at least 100 servers for every human resident.
Why Prineville? It offers a combination of factors that data center operators covet – abundant land for massive facilities that can house of tens of thousand of servers, the electricity to power these armadas of servers, and tax incentives that make it cheaper to buy servers. The Oregon climate also offers the opportunity to cool servers using outside air instead of power-hungry chillers, slashing the cost of operating the data center.
Facebook opened its first Prineville data center in April, 2011. That first building was 330,000 square feet, while the second building was slightly larger. The newest structure spans 450,000 square feet, about 35 percent larger than the original building. The two new buildings will also average 450,000 square feet.
The non-stop construction at the Facebook site is good news for the local economy. The project currently employs 750 construction workers, and that number will double to 1,500 as the newest expansion gets underway. The influx of data center construction workers has strained Prineville’s housing supply, according to The Oregonian, which reports that the town is working with developers to create temporary workforce housing.