Facebook’s first European data center goes live in Sweden

Inside Facebook's Lulea data center, the servers are Open Compute but the chips are not.

With the PRISM debacle having pushed data protection way up the list of European concerns these days, this is quite good timing: Facebook’s first data center in Europe – or indeed anywhere outside the U.S. — is now handling traffic from around the world.

The data center is sited in Luleå on the northern Swedish coast, and it went live on Wednesday. As with Google’s new Finnish data center, Facebook is counting on the northern European environment to help cut cooling costs – not by way of seawater cooling, this time, but using good old cold air. The remaining excess heat is used to keep the associated offices warm.

According to a post on Wednesday, water is nonetheless providing hydroelectric energy for the operation. This accounts for all of the data center’s electricity needs, and the post states that “the supply is also so reliable that we have been able to reduce the number of backup generators required at the site by more than 70 percent.”

The Luleå facility is almost entirely based on Facebook’s Open Compute Project designs, which also help on the energy efficiency front by doing away with extraneous materials. The company reckons the data center averages 1.07 on the power usage efficiency (PUE) scale.

Having a data center in Europe is a very good idea when it comes to meeting European data protection laws (which are probably about to get tougher). The only reason Facebook can legally process EU citizens’ personal data in the U.S. is its membership of the U.S-EU Safe Harbor program — after Edward Snowden’s leak, that arrangement now looks shaky to say the least.

It’s hard to say what the fallout from the scandal will be just yet, but processing those citizens’ data within EU borders may help Facebook stay on the right side of the law.

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