Updated: Facebook these days is doing everything in its power to imitate Google, recruiting the search giant’s sales people, poaching its senior executives and — most importantly — using infrastructure as a competitive advantage. Like Google, Facebook has figured out that the right web infrastructure is […]

Updated: Facebook these days is doing everything in its power to imitate Google, recruiting the search giant’s sales people, poaching its senior executives and — most importantly — using infrastructure as a competitive advantage. Like Google, Facebook has figured out that the right web infrastructure is the difference between user delight and dismay. And like Google, Facebook is finding out that it isn’t cheap.

I’ve been trying to get a handle on Facebook’s infrastructure for some time, but so far have been unable to get the company to open up. The last time I reached out to them, back in January, I was hearing that they had between 1,200 and 1,500 servers, along with storage and switches from EMC Corp. and Force 10 Networks respectively. As it turns out, those server numbers weren’t even close to the total servers used by them.

The company is running around 10,000 servers, according to Data Center Knowledge, citing comments made by Facebook VP of technology, Jeff Rothschild, at a recent MySQL user conference. (See video of the panel.) Of the 10,000 servers, 1,800 are from MySQL and around 805 of them are memcached servers. In order to house its sprawling infrastructure, Facebook has leased data center space from DuPont Fabros in Ashburn, Va., and Digital Realty Trust in Santa Clara, Calif., DCK reports.

How much is Facebook spending on its infrastructure? The company isn’t going to tell us, but there are clues. Server and storage company Rackable today reported first-quarter 2008 sales of around $69 million. Facebook is one of its largest customers, accounting for around 10 percent of Rackable’s sales (that number could be higher, but we’ll have to wait for Rackable’s 10-Q to get a clearer picture), so some quick, back-of-the-envelope math reveals $7 million in spending by the social networking company. A well placed source of mine just let me know that Facebook is going to spend over $9 million more on servers this year. That should be good news for Rackable. Next on my list is an estimate of Facebook’s bandwidth and data center costs.

The hardware spending by startups like Facebook will be a topic of discussion at our Structure 08 conference, where we are hoping to learn more about the infrastructure secrets of all of today’s top (and fast-growing) web players.

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  1. Isn’t Google employing strategy of 100 cheap used hardware instead of 1 costly powerful server? It would be interesting to confirm because its working for Google and maybe facebook should go that route. (Although its a different story that Google loads up those cheap machines with its own version of linux and file system for better performance).

    1. No, Google doesn’t use100 cheap computers instead of 1 powerful server. They *might* use a couple of slightly underpowered computers instead of 1 high end server. Google uses cost effective Intel and AMD processors. Intel uses standard PC disk drives spinning at 5400 to 7200 RPM instead of faster, more reliable SCSI. Google’s real strategy is that they customize the hardware and software for the problem at hand. They design and build their own mother boards, customize the OS, supply their own cluster software: file system, map-reduce, database, remote procedure call, distributed locking, distributed cluster managers; the whole kit and kaboodle.

      1. I’m going to dream about understanding what the hell you just said tonight

  2. That strategy only works when power and space is cheap and processing power is expensive. We’re starting to see that shift in a major way. Big iron is making a comeback in power effecient packaging.

  3. Re server hardware choices, Facebook is a big customer of Rackable, apparently their forth-largest after Microsoft, Yahoo and Amazon.


  4. “between 1,200 and 1,500 servers from EMC Corp. and Force 10 Networks.”

    EMC makes storage systems and Force 10 makes Gigabit Ethernet switches…not really “servers” in my opinion. Was this sentence supposed to read differently?

    1. Obviously, you didn’t read the whole sentence.

      1. Obviously you didn’t read two comments down.

  5. how does this compare with myspace? ha

  6. @ GaryO

    You were right – few words got dropped. I fixed the sentence. Thanks for looking out

  7. @ Rich Miller

    I also updated on Facebook’s likely spending for rest of the year on the post: about $9 million.

  8. and that’s just on servers.

  9. I can tell you, accessing Facebook from Europe is always a real pain, loading so slowly.

  10. Klaus: I usually find Facebook and most big US sites fine; sadly, though, I’ve often found US/Canadian transit providers with little or no global transit bandwidth: technically, they provide “transit”, but with shockingly high latency by very inefficient routes. I have a server colocated in California on the end of a Peer1 connection – which routes UK traffic via Amsterdam, of all places, resulting in atrocious performance! (The really stupid thing is that IIRC they and the UK ISPs I was testing from have direct connections into LINX, which should give far better performance than the detour via the Netherlands. Maybe they’re trying to meet a traffic quota at AMSIX?)

  11. Chat Marchet News Digest » Facebook’s Insatiable Hunger for Hardware Saturday, April 26, 2008

    [...] Source here… This entry was posted on Friday, April 25th, 2008 at 11:45 pm and is filed under le Chat Marchet. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. [...]

  12. Basic Thinking Blog | Wochenende Saturday, April 26, 2008

    [...] was zahlt wohl Facebook für die Infrastruktur? Om Malik ist den Kosten auf der Spur (die Sprache ist von 10.000 Servern, davon 1.800 MySQL Server und 800 [...]

  13. Igor The Troll Saturday, April 26, 2008

    Does someone know how is FaceBook going to make a dollar?

  14. That’s a hell of a lot of power going to waste. Think of the planet!

    Talking of the planet, all the Facebook staff should drive Hummers.

  15. Nasavo » Blog Archive » Facebook’s Insatiable Hunger for Hardware Saturday, April 26, 2008

    [...] and around 805 of them are memcached servers. In order to house its sprawling infrastructure, Fread more | digg [...]

  16. spatially relevant » Blog Archive » April 26th – Relevant Links Saturday, April 26, 2008

    [...] Facebook?s Insatiable Hunger for Hardware [...]

  17. Who Will Cache in on Cloud Storage? – GigaOM Saturday, April 26, 2008

    [...] is kept and delivered in the fastest amount of time. For proof that storage is relevant check out Facebook’s hardware. A little more than 8% of their servers are devoted to the distributed caching system, memcache. [...]

  18. I hope that I can come up with a simple business concept such as facebook and make it worth as much. Is facebook really worth its crazy current valuation of multi billions, even though there is plenty of valid reason for them being worthless.

  19. Alan Wilensky Saturday, April 26, 2008

    I have never been happy with Facebook’s latencies and load times, no matter where I access from, although I have noticed some modest improvements to date. It may be that Facebook’s questionable utility to serious businesses, coupled with it’s weak ability to monetize, will be a serious drag on its growth heading into the weakening economy.

    Also, all of this heavy iron and the investment thereof, might just be one boat anchor of a liability (sucking up cash that might be put to better use). There are many more creative strategies for building capacity.

  20. It’s much better to run larger servers rather than smaller servers. This is because, I can bet, synchronizing memcached between 805 servers is much more difficult than synchronizing between let’s say 200 servers, of 4x the power. Also Apache and other web-servers can scale very well on high powered machines. Running Apache across many servers will require more code to run, and will cause much more heating, and consume more space.


  21. 10,000 servers is ridiculous. For crying out loud, you can build a nice quad-quad core server with 64gb of RAM for $10k. With 20 of those I can power Facebook easily. That is 1.2 TB of RAM or shit, buy a 100 of those and you got 6 TB of RAM and 1600 processors. If you cannot power Facebook with that, then you don’t know how to architect for shit. Can’t do it with 100 servers? Ok, buy 1000 of them and you got 60 TB of RAM and 16000 processors. If you cannot power with that, then you are probably mentally retarded.

  22. Jon Radoff’s Entrepreneur 2.0 Blog » Facebook entering the Cloud business? Sunday, April 27, 2008

    [...] world’s hunger for server capacity? At first, when I read Steven Baker’s write-up on Facebook’s server farm–10,000 servers and counting–I was amazed.  Why the heck does Facebook need that many [...]

  23. links for 2008-04-27 « Brent Sordyl’s Blog Sunday, April 27, 2008

    [...] Facebook’s Insatiable Hunger for Hardware 10,000 servers, 1,800 are MySQL and around 805 of them are memcached servers (tags: facebook) [...]

  24. strange, why to copy Google if Google strategy has been targeted on US success and times has changed – US is less and less leader (if at all, make yourself search for “food rationing”, yes, first time in US history)… do they have capability to think by own brain at FB at all?

  25. Ernie Oporto Sunday, April 27, 2008

    Please expand on your ideas about why the US not being a leader in any way invalidates following Google’s proven success? I’m just wondering what other examples of mega-success you’ve come across on the Internet that has somehow escaped the attention of the rest of the Internet.

  26. What about the number of SysAdmins? Do you have any figures on this by any chance? Would be interesting to find out…

  27. The original article mentions 2 DB Admin for 1,800 MySQL servers…. Ouch…. Don’t know how leggit this info is, but if it is actually the case, it is damn impressive!

  28. Ideal Programmer\’s blog » Blog Archive » Facebook’s Insatiable Hunger for Hardware Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    [...] read more | digg story [...]

  29. Facebook Quiz Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Facebook is doing it’s best to scale up and those hardships are going to be a hard juggle. I think they started off with their feet facing the wrong direction.

  30. The Rising Cost of Facebook Infrastructure – GigaOM Sunday, May 11, 2008

    [...] Malik, Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 9:16 PM PT Comments (0) Last month, I wrote about Facebook’s insatiable hunger for hardware. Over the weekend, Spencer Ante of Business Week [...]

  31. //steve clayton: geek in disguise : Are you listening, Microsoft? Tuesday, May 13, 2008

    [...] of servers per month (this is getting more and more coverage of late, esp when you consider Facebook seems to run on only 10,000 servers [...]

  32. Geek Out: How Facebook Scales Chat – GigaOM Thursday, May 15, 2008

    [...] 08Archives Geek Out: How Facebook Scales Chat — Neither Om nor I are shy about talking infrastructure, but the High Scalability blog has gone totally geek and parsed the details of how Facebook plans [...]

  33. HP Weds Cloud and High-performance Computing – GigaOM Wednesday, May 28, 2008

    [...] brand of two-in-one blades, but HP will have to compete with existing hardware vendors such as Rackable and Silicon Metrics, who seem to be doing fine providing energy-efficient scalable hardware for Web [...]

  34. The Information Super Highway « Monday, June 16, 2008

    [...] infrastructure is running on about 10,000 servers, which is costing them between $7 and 9 million dollars per year. As a company with 500 employees [...]

  35. Digg, Facebook Connect To Headline at f8Con – GigaOM Tuesday, July 22, 2008

    [...] Facebook Connect in many ways is the exact opposite approach taken by the company last year when it encouraged hundreds of developers to create applications that lived inside its silo. These applications grew at a breakneck speed and created a bubble of their own. They also put the Facebook infrastructure under extreme stress and on a cost curve that only large revenue streams can support. The inane and pointless apps cost the company a lot of bandwidth, not to mention the rising hardware costs. [...]

  36. Facebook Pokes Dell, Jilts Rackable? – GigaOM Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    [...] cozier shouldn’t come as a surprise. Facebook is seriously “server hungry” and has been on a spending spree to beef up its infrastructure. Dell, on the otherhand, has been increasingly seriously about cloud computing and working with [...]

  37. 10 Billion Facebook Photos – Is That Ecologically Sustainable ? Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    [...] quick maths : Earlier GigaOm reported Facebook to have around 10,000 servers & last May Facebook reportedly borrowed $100 million to [...]

  38. Gear6’s Web Cache Makes Web Scalability Easier Monday, April 20, 2009

    [...] protocol, memcached. Every Top 20 web site not owned by Microsoft uses memcached (Facebook has almost 1,000 servers dedicated to its memcached tier) and 50-60 percent of all Alexa-ranked Top 10,000 sites use it to [...]

  39. Facebook Rules the World | Edgelings.com « Dispatches from the Front Monday, September 28, 2009

    [...] How many servers are used to host Facebook?   The answer is here.  Photo courtesy Darren McKeenan. This is one small segment of Facebook's [...]

  40. With that amount of server power running, I hope Facebook considers energy saving and environmental issues a top priority. Siting is definitely one of the most important factors that affect the energy consumption and environmental effects of a server farm. There are cooler climates than in the continental US and with more green electricity available. I would recommend anybody considering siting a datacenter to take a look at the Finnish website on these issues: http://www.fincloud.freehostingcloud.com/

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