As the 2nd most used website in the world, Facebook is definitely a site that you can’t ignore. Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it has an impressive story and many can learn from its rapid grown and intricate infrastructure.

In 2004, Facebook was being set up using open source software, by college roommates at Harvard University. Just 10 years on, Mark Zuckerberg and his team have transformed it into the most popular social network in the world, with over 829 million daily active users on average as well as the largest MySQL database in the world too. However, with this amount of usage, traffic and data, Facebook have to think differently, as well as constantly looking ahead to the next stage. Here we take a look at Facebook’s existing infrastructure, as well as what we should expect to see in the future.

Facebook Structure

Facebook is no doubt a huge company and as of June 2014, has over 7,000 employees. Their head office is in none other than Palo Alto in Silicon Valley, California, with 14 U.S. offices in total. However, with the site translated into 83 different languages (if you include English Pirate and English Upside down!), Facebook has seen the importance of spreading it’s network and now have their employees all around the world, in 34 international offices, including locations such as Dublin, Montreal, Singapore and of course, London.

Facebook Data Centres

As well as a network of offices, Facebook also have 6 data centres, which store everything that happens on Facebook. A staggering 30 billion pieces of content is shared each month via the site and so these centres are needed to make sure everything is processed, 24/7.

5 out of the 6 data centres are located in the U.S., with North Carolina being a popular location for many companies to locate their data centres, and is around 300 square foot. However, it is their 6th data centre, located in Lulea, Sweden that has attracted the most attention.

Facebook Servers

Although it is unknown exactly how many servers Facebook actually have, each data centre can house thousands of servers, each powered by a mixture of Intel and AMD chips.

However, with the increase in users and data, the number of servers has certainly grown, it was estimated that in 2012 there were around 180,000, which is a significant increase from the estimated 60,000 in 2010 and 30,000 in 2009. Although this is not quite at the same level as Google, where estimates suggest they have over a million servers spread across their 40 data centres, this is still an incredible amount of data and a long way from when the company could manage on just 1 server.

Environmental Concerns

There is no doubt that a data centre requires a significant amount of power to work efficiently, which not only costs money, but also uses a lot of fuel, having an enormous impact on the environment. Servers also generate a lot of heat and need equipment to keep them cool at all times. It is therefore no surprise that companies such as Facebook have received a lot of criticism from organisations such as Greenpeace.

However, Facebook have since taken a very different approach to their strategy, with their new data centre, Lulea, in Sweden.

Their Lulea data centre proudly runs entirely on renewable energy, via a hydroelectricity system. It is also located in Sweden, specifically for its cold climate, which naturally keeps the servers cooler. This is a much more eco friendly approach, whilst saving the business money in the long-term.

Future plans for Facebook’s infrastructure

With Facebook growing at such a rapid pace over the last 10 years, it’s hard to imagine where the site could be in another 10 years. However, it can easily be predicted that we will see the website continue to grow, with more data, servers and data centres.

However, Facebook has a goal to have the most efficient computer infrastructure in the world, run at the lowest cost possible. We fully expect to see this happen and with their Open Compute Project, we’ll see other companies doing the same.

We’ve also seen Facebook’s first data centre outside of the U.S. and so with the majority of Facebook’s audience in the rest of the world, it is likely we will see a much larger, global network of Facebook data centres, but with a much stronger focus on environmental features.