Facebook is promoting energy efficiency in data centers. The social-networking giant announced Friday that it has launched the Open Compute Project, which will share the custom-engineered, energy-saving technology at its new data center.

The company said the data center in Prineville, Ore., features a 38 percent increase in energy efficiency and cost 24 percent less to build. As befits the leading social-networking site, Facebook said the Open Compute Project will share designs and "collaborate with anyone interested in highly efficient server and data-center designs."

'Most Efficient Computing Infrastructure'

Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook's vice president of technical operations, said the company and its development partners "have invested tens of millions of dollars over the past two years to build upon industry specifications to create the most efficient computing infrastructure possible." Its partners are Advanced Micro Devices, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Intel.

He added that the Open Compute project will include a user-led forum to share the designs and collaborate with others on energy efficiency. Heiliger said "it's time to demystify the biggest capital expense of an online business -- the infrastructure."

Dell's Data Center Solutions business will design and build servers based on the Open Compute Project specs, and Synnex will provide integrated solutions using the servers.

Facebook said that, "inspired by the success of open-source software," it's publishing technical specifications and mechanical CAD files for the Prineville data center's servers, power supplies, server racks, battery backup systems, and building design. The designs are being released as open hardware.

'When You're a Hammer ...'

The design and technology will, according to the company, enable an initial power-usage effectiveness or PUE ratio of 1.07, compared to its current facility's 1.5. This is within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "best practices" category. PUE indicates data-center energy efficiency.

The company said that, if only a quarter of all data centers in the U.S. used the Open Compute Project specs, enough energy would be saved to power more than 160,000 homes. In addition to the energy savings, the cost of building was reduced 24 percent. And 120 tons of material were saved from being manufactured and, eventually, discarded, because the servers were built "free of all non-essential parts."

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said an open-source, shared approach to data-center efficiency is consistent with the "company's DNA" as a social-networking force.

"When you're hammer," he said, "everything looks like a nail." Shimmin added that, when you're Facebook, "everything looks like a social-networking opportunity."

Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp, noted that, "because companies want to cloak themselves as going green, and because it helps their bottom line," increasing energy efficiency in data centers is now a popular trend.