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Social Media Changing the Data Center Market
With the widespread use of social media, data center companies are coming up with reliable solutions to meet their storage needs

By Luke Smith · 2/18/2016

Social media is now an integral part of everyday life in modern society. A recent study by the Pew Research Center indicated that approximately 65% of all American adults use at least one social networking site. The number has increased significantly from 2006, when the percentage of Americans using one social networking site was only 7%. Another study revealed that, on average, we spend over 1.72 hours a day just on social networks and the average person checks their various social networking outlets around 17 times per day.

Data center and social media companies are having to quickly adapt in order to store and manage all of the data produced from the billions of people on social media. With over 1.5 billion users, Facebook creates a significant amount of data. In 2014, Facebook announced that they process approximately 600 terabytes of data per day and store over 300 petabytes of data. YouTube reports that they have over one billion users, watching over 4 billion videos per day, totaling 6 billion hours of video watching per month. An estimated 300 hours of new video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

In order for companies to keep their social media outlet interesting and relevant, they need to offer new services and provide new experiences. For example, Snapchat changed from only allowing people to send pictures to also being able to send videos. They now have a feature where users create a "story," which is a collection of videos and pictures that the user takes throughout the day, which can be accessed at any time. New services create more data, and an influx of activity with those services can cause a rapid spike in data and traffic. These companies need flexible data center solutions in order to smoothly scale their IT load and keep their services up during those spikes.

Social media companies handle their data center needs in many different ways. Here's how some of the large companies approach their data center needs:

  • Facebook – Facebook has an extensive network of several large data centers in Altoona, Prineville, Forest City, and Fort Worth in the US, with another data center in Lulea, and the recently announced data center project beginning outside Dublin. Most of these data centers are over 300,000 square feet, with surrounding land for future data center expansion. Just this week, Facebook announced their acquisition of 40 additional acres of surrounding land at their Fort Worth campus, giving them a total footprint of 150 acres. To learn more about Facebook's massive data center project in Fort Worth, read our blog "Three Takeaways from Facebook's DFW Data Center Announcement."

  • LinkedIn – Recently, LinkedIn transitioned from leasing colocation space through Equinix to now leasing wholesale data center space. LinkedIn currently leases two data centers from Digital Realty in Virginia and Texas. They are also in the process of leasing a facility in Oregon from Infomart. To read more about what makes the Portland market attractive for data center users, read our blog "Big Expansion for Infomart Data Centers in Oregon."

  • YouTube – Since YouTube is owned by Google, they benefit from Google's extensive data center portfolio of over 100 data centers globally and their robust cloud offerings.

While these companies keep building data centers, they are also working to make their data centers more efficient. For example, Facebook is working on their efficiency measures inside their data center. The social networking giant uses a 1.5U chassis on their servers, which creates room for the more efficient 60 millimeter fans instead of the typical 40 millimeter fans. They also use custom 277-volt AC power supplies instead of traditional 208-volt supplies. This allows the power entering the building to go directly to the servers instead of having to go through several step-downs. From the paint on the servers to the location of the cabling, every aspect of the of the data center is designed to maximize the data center's efficiency.

The data center market benefits from social media growth in many ways. Smaller social media companies certainly have expanding data center needs and need flexibility as they experience the challenges with predicting IT load. They provide consistent needs well suited for third party data center providers, whether utilizing colocation or cloud as a service. The larger social media companies (Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube) who build, own, and operate their own data centers are becoming creative by overcoming obstacles related to storage and efficiency. As existing social media companies grow and new social media companies are created, their need for data center capacity will continue.

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