Facebook And Ikea Fans Make Flatpack Data Centres

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Ikea inspired Facebook’s next data centre in Sweden, but Peter Judge says these are not the first flatpack racks

Facebook’s second data centre in Lulea, Sweden is inspired by Ikea, using a flatpack-style construction to make manufacture and delivery more efficient. But it’s not the first time a connection has been made between data centres and Ikea furniture.

Ikea’s next data centre is green because (like its first centre on the site) it uses Sweden’s nearly-Arctic climate and renewable energy supplies to deliver efficient computing for the social media giant.

facebook lulea  2 cold aisle construction

Facebook data centre goes Ikea

The centre has an impressive: PUE (power usage effectiveness) of 1.05, an achievement in anyone’s book. But Facebook seems to be breaking new ground in the efficiency with which it manufactures and installs the systems.

Modular data centres started out as shipping containers, delivered to the customer’s site on trucks. But containers include a lot of empty space.

To improve on this, Facebook made the same observation as Gillis Lundgren, the Ikea draughtsman who invented flat pack furniture in 1951. He screwed the legs off a table to drive it home in his car – and the next day suggested to his boss that the company could sell more furniture this way.

The rest is history, with flat-pack streamlining the manufacturing process, saving storage space and delivery costs, and adding to the weekend fun of many consumers bolting desks, beds and bookshelves together.

Facebook is doing the same with its tech kit, and as with a lot of Facebook’s ideas, it’s available for others to use through its Open Compute initiative.  But, if the truth be told there are firms doing somewhat similar things already. For instance, Colt’s modular data centres consist of walls and floors which are shipped and bolted together on site.

Facebook also developed a “chassis” for its IT equipment so the aisles can be built in an assembly line – another idea which other big data centre builders are working on too.

Ilackrack with lampkea furniture becomes IT kit

But, while Facebook’s data centre is becoming more like Ikea furniture, there is an actual Ikea item which has made the journey in the other direction becoming a bona fide piece of tech equipment.

The so-called LackRack is “the ultimate, low-cost, high shininess solution for your modular datacentre-in-the-living-room”, based on the Ikea Lack coffee table, which enthusiasts realised was exactly the right size to hold rack-mount servers and network switches.

A growing community of Ikea fans have built home data centres using Lack tables, and swap tips on how to make them look good. Like Facebook’s Open Compute it’s a community hack, with the LackRack a domestic way to boost efficiency in homes and small offices, while Facebook’s initiative tidies up the commercial cloud.

A version of this article appeared on Green Data Center News

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Facebook And Ikea Flat Pack Data Centres

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Facebook's cold aisle assembly
The cold aisles of Facebook's Lulea 2 data centre will be bolted together like flatpack furniture

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