Facebook at 9: the social networking phenomenon drives data center growth

2013-02-04 - Facebook, at the age of only nine, already has more than one billion users. On YouTube, 72 hours of video are uploaded every minute. And Twitter users share 340 million tweets per day. Such demand is driving growth and innovation in the data-center industry and beyond.

By ABB Communications

Whichever way you look at it, the amount of information that is stored and transferred across the world is growing at a staggering pace. IBM estimates that 90 percent of the data that exists on Earth today was created in the past two years, and by 2016 the monthly volume of data center IP traffic globally is expected to reach 554 billion gigabytes (up from 146 billion in 2011).*

Driving data into the cloud
As well as driving growth in data, Facebook and other social media are changing the way information is consumed. Increasingly, users are accessing their data on mobile devices, prompting governments and enterprises to migrate data to the ‘cloud’. Indeed, by 2016, global cloud IP traffic is expected to account for nearly two-thirds of total data center traffic.

On the ground, these developments are leading to the creation of ever-larger data centers, with the biggest now occupying over 1 million square feet, equivalent to 17 football fields.

Focus on energy efficiency
Powering such mammoth facilities requires huge amounts of energy, both to run the servers and to keep them cool. In 2012, data center power requirements grew by 63% globally to 38 gigawatts, up from 24 gigawatts in 2011.* They also accounted for an estimated two percent of global carbon emissions.

The growth of data centers is thus increasing demand for innovative technologies to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions. These range from virtualization technologies, which allow enterprises to utilize their infrastructure more effectively, inhibiting overall system growth, to state-of-the-art cooling systems. The choice of location can also make a difference. Last year Facebook opened its first data center outside the US in northern Sweden, near the Arctic circle, taking advantage of the cold climate to help keep its servers cool.

Nine years after Facebook ushered in a new era in online communications, social media is not only changing the way we store and consume information, it is also impacting the technologies that power our planet.

* Cisco Global Cloud Index

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