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Facebook data center, photo courtesy of Facebook

Facebook data center, photo courtesy of Facebook

Facebook has saved $1.3 billion in the last three years by making its data centers more energy efficient.

That’s enough energy to power 40,000 houses a year and saves on carbon emissions the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the road, said Charlie Manese, vice president of channel development for Facebook’s Open Compute Project and infrastructure.

Facebook’s data centers run on alternative energy including hydrodynamic and wind power.

The company has focused on making its data centers faster, leaner and better since it broke ground four years on its first “green” data center project in Prineville, Oregon.

Manese spoke Thursday morning on the last day of the two-day Open BigCloud Symposium focused on cloud computing and big data. The conference, held at the University of Texas at San Antonio, attracted about 200 people and featured presentations from Rackspace, Facebook, Gartner, Internet2, Dell, University of Texas Advanced Computer Center and others.

The Open Compute Project started at Facebook in 2011. A big focus of the Open Compute Project is to share best practices with software, hardware, networks and data center designs to increase efficiency and cut down on energy consumption.

“There’s a lot more data being created these days than ever before,” said Attilia Finta with Dell. His presentation focused on infrastructure cooling technology used in the data centers to keep the servers from overheating.

Ron Mann, a senior director of data center infrastructure with Hewlett-Packard showed off the container-sized data centers that HP can put in tight spaces and even on rooftops. Some of the data center containers have even been painted to look like mobile homes.

The efficient data centers are greatly needed because the world is awash in data, and the amount of data created has greatly accelerated in the last few years, said Frank Frankovsky, chairman of the Open Compute Project Foundation. It has grown from .8 zettabytes (one zettabyte equals 1 billion terabytes) of data in 2010 to 2.8 zettabytes in 2012. And it’s expected to hit 40 zettabytes in 2020, he said.