Facebook Plans to 'Friend' Microservers

Facebook is bucking the trend toward server virtualization and wants to install microservers for inexpensive growth and quick failover, a company official said last month.

Gio Coglitore, director of Facebook Labs, spoke at an Intel press briefing, where he came out in support of Intel's plans for an expanded lineup of processors for microservers, ranging from a 45-watt Xeon to an Atom-based processor that consumes less than 10 watts of power.

Facebook has tested microservers in production and is interested in the architecture for its massive data centers, Coglitore said.

Microservers, an architecture that Intel introduced in 2009, are small, low-power, one-processor servers that can be densely packed into a data center.

Server makers, including Dell, SeaMicro and Tyan, have adopted the architecture, which has been most popular among large cloud service providers.

Facebook will probably start implementing microservers on a large scale late this year or early next year, Coglitore said.

The social media giant sees microservers as an inexpensive way "to scale more effectively," he said. Also, Facebook wants to be able to balance its computing load across many systems and have the capacity to deliver a consistent user experience even if it loses a server.

"As you start to virtualize, the importance of that individual server is greatly enhanced, and when you have that at scale, it becomes very difficult," Coglitore said.

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

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