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Facebook building 'cold storage' data centers for unloved photos

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facebook photo app stock 1020
facebook photo app stock 1020

Facebook currently hosts more than 240 billion user photos, but only a small percentage of them are accessed on a regular basis. With an additional 350 million photos uploaded every day, the site has been searching for more efficient ways to manage these data, including a "cold storage" system that would host older images on low-power servers.

As the Oregonian reports, the social network is currently preparing to launch three new cold storage facilities at its Prineville, Oregon data centers, with the first scheduled to open this fall. Unlike Facebook's traditional servers, which are always powered on and ready to deliver data, the servers at its cold storage facility would be put on standby, making them ideal for older images that are accessed far less frequently. According to the company, 82 percent of its traffic goes toward just eight percent of its photos.

"The principle will be so that it doesn’t impact the user experience."

Facebook says this approach poses obvious benefits. The servers at its cold storage buildings will have eight times the capacity of its traditional servers, and will be five times more energy efficient. In the first nine months of operation, Facebook's Prineville facilities consumed an estimated 71 million kilowatts of power — equivalent to the consumption of about 6,000 homes. The company's cold storage facilities are also expected to cost about one-third less than current systems.

The only downside, of course, is that accessing older photos may take a bit longer than normal. Freshly uploaded images will remain on Facebook's "hot servers," but calling up archived content will require the site to first awaken its slumbering cold servers. The company, however, says this delay won't be significant enough for most users to notice. "The principle will be so that it doesn’t impact the user experience," said Michael Kirkland, Facebook communications manager. "So think about a matter of seconds, or milliseconds."