Facebook held a Grand Opening VIP and media tour for its massive new Fort Worth Data Center Thursday. pmoseley@star-telegram.com
Facebook held a Grand Opening VIP and media tour for its massive new Fort Worth Data Center Thursday. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth

Your Facebook posts are now likely to run through Fort Worth

By Matthew Martinez

mmartinez@star-telegram.com

May 04, 2017 4:04 PM

FORT WORTH

The next time you post a selfie or click “like” or “share” on your phone’s Facebook app, it’s likely to flow through the social media giant’s newest data center in far north Fort Worth.

The first of what will be five Fort Worth data centers officially came online Thursday, while the rest of the $1 billion construction project continues around it. That means Facebook apps and services are now being brought to users, regionally first and to a lesser extent worldwide, from tens of thousands of servers housed off Texas 170 in the AllianceTexas development.

When completed, the Fort Worth site will be Facebook’s largest data center to date, four buildings connected to form two “H” shapes, plus one standalone center, for a total of 20 data halls on nearly 150 acres at Texas 170 and Park Vista Boulevard. Facebook has had 750 construction workers on-site daily while the first building was being built.

What’s operational now is 440,000 square feet of computer server space and 70,000 square feet of additional administrative space. It’s already being supported by 150 Facebook employees and additional contract staff, who are routing fiberoptic cable and installing, maintaining and repairing network devices and servers.

A view of the administration offices at the Data Center.
Paul Moseley pmoseley@star-telegram.com

“So if a server breaks, the system sees it, issues a ticket, the technician gets their cart, and they have to go to a parts depot,” said Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure, Tom Furlong, during a grand opening event Thursday. “That parts depot is stocked by logisticians who essentially stock all the parts for the data center equipment.”

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce President Bill Thornton and Ross Perot Jr., chairman of Hillwood, the developer of AllianceTexas, accompanied Furlong and Simmons on Thursday morning to press a life-size “Like” button that celebrated the start of the servers’ hum and the turn of the cooling fans.

“These are the factories of the 21st century,” Perot said. “When Alliance started 30 years ago, we hadn’t even heard of the internet. We were focused on aviation factories and auto factories. Look at what’s happening now: it’s data centers and i-fulfillment centers, and it’s companies that we never dreamed of 30 years ago coming into Fort Worth.”

Building Two will be full of servers by the end of the year, and Facebook recently broke ground on the third. By the time all five buildings are in place, the servers currently housed in the first data center will have surpassed their three-year life span, and will be replaced with new ones, said KC Timmons, Facebook’s Fort Worth site manager.

“Lately, business has exceeded expectations each time,” Furlong said. “In some ways, we’re always trying to keep up with it. Demand for computing power doubles every 18 months, but at the same time, companies out there are developing more dense memory, so there’s this back and forth between the growing need and the advancing technology to handle the load.”

Facebook expects to add more workers over time, but not 150 for each new building. “It’s a flatter curve than that, but there will continue to be more Facebook employees as the project progresses,” Furlong said.

The data center, the servers of which put off a considerable amount of heat, is cooled with outside air and direct evaporative cooling, and it is powered by clean and renewable energy, said Furlong.

“That’s thanks to a deal to bring 200 megawatts [of wind energy] online with Citigroup energy, Alterra Power Corp and Starwood Energy Group,” Furlong said. “That’s more energy than we need for the next few years, so that energy is just online, on the Texas grid.”

The Fort Worth site is Facebook’s fifth data center site in the U.S., with projects under construction in New Mexico and Nebraska as well.

Matthew Martinez: 817-390-7667; @MCTinez817

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