I never know whether to attribute changes that have occurred between the time something is written and when we read it to cultural/attitude shifts, or mere coincidence. In Jennifer Holt and Patrick Vonderau’s chapter “Where the Internet Lives’: Data Centers as Cloud Infrastructure,” published in 2015, the authors discuss how secretive companies often are about the physical spaces of data centers. Google is cited as one exception to this. Has thinking about data centers changed so much in the last three years? Because it seems that Facebook is also happy to attach a certain level of visibility to their data centers.
A blog post on the web site of Dallas Innovates magazine includes information such as their Fort Worth data center’s design elements, physical location, and cooling strategies. The post also includes photos of the data room, massive fans, and the pipes that move water throughout the center, but its overall the focus seems to be oriented more towards the site’s employees; there are a lot of pictures of artwork (much of it tied directly to the region and/or produced by local artists) and employee spaces than on the practical infrastructure needed to power and run a massive data center. The short post does not say whether Facebook directed or limited what could be photographed, or if the magazine’s photographer/editor chose what to shoot and feature. This visit happened recently, but I found several older articles/blog posts from the North Texas area from others who had been granted access to the data center; Facebook definitely isn’t trying to keep this place under wraps, but their openness with information about their data centers just makes me wonder what they’re misdirecting people’s attention from.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the data center also has its own Facebook page. Its posts seem evenly split between positive press releases, encouraging people to apply for a job at the campus, and information about Facebook’s charitable contributions in the region. My favorite comments came from the disgruntled former employees (top gripe: how out of the way the campus is and the lack of bus service to get there). Other Facebook data centers are linked to from that page, leading me to believe that this openness about their data centers is the rule, rather than an exception.