Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Facebook IT

Facebook May Make Tiny Town a Data Center Mecca 136

miller60 writes "Just weeks after the opening of a Facebook data center in Prineville, Oregon, local officials say two more companies may build server farms in the small town. Facebook has touted Prineville as an ideal environment for using fresh air to cool servers. The news positions Prineville (pop. 10,000, unemployment rate 17 percent) to emerge as a data center hub similar to Quincy, Washington, a small farm town that now hosts five huge server farms."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Facebook May Make Tiny Town a Data Center Mecca

Comments Filter:
  • This sort of thing has happened in many other industries in many other places many times over. It's rarely the natives who get the jobs. Rather, it's experts and technicians from other regions who are brought in to do the specialized work. The natives who support these new arrivals may benefit, but the unemployed often remain unemployed.

    • by jmauro ( 32523 )

      Actually it's sort of worse with datacenters in the fact they're large facilities but they produce very, very few local jobs. Most of the work is being done offsite over the internet or is completely automated.

      • Data centers don't really provide many jobs at all - local or otherwise. After the location is built out it's basically a skeleton staff to keep the servers physically repaired.

        • You're right of course, when comparing it to, say, a proper tech company campus. Though at "Facebook scale", their centers might have quite a bit of HVAC and electrical work... beyond the build-outs. At least a lot for a town of only 10,000.

          Plus with other places coming in too, it'll be something of a tax revenue generator. Play their cards right with those dollars and they might be able to turn it into a place worth living. Then the sky is the limit. I seem to remember a similar story about some dep
      • On the plus side, datacenters are a touch water and power heavy; but aren't particularly noisy, noxious, or dangerous.

        What you have to watch out for is situations where state or local governments end up offering ludicrously generous "incentive" packages that the locals will still be eating in taxes long after the industry in question has moved on(datacenters not exactly being a business where deep roots in the community help much, so they can and will pack up and move if you try to buy them in with 'incentives').

        You can forget reviving the dreams of your blue collar workforce or such; but a datacenter should be a reasonably quiet, unassuming producer of modest taxes and a few support jobs. Just don't get sucked into a bidding war to host one...
    • Not directly, no. But people who do get teh jobz will move nearer their work. This will create additional jobs, as they must eat, drink, and shit nearby, particularly now due to the gas prices that we all enjoy.

      I didn't see anything in TFA about tax breaks given, and am curious whether anyone knows whether that happened, and how much.
      • Oh yes, there were lots of tax breaks given and those were a source of a lot of local angst. They have a 15 year exemption from property taxes and were looking for a 10 year exemption from state income and excise taxes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)


      Here's a real-life example - despite the objection of many retired veterans and other anti-mercenary citizens living in the area, the county government crookedly rubber-stamped a new facility of a Blackwater shell corporation, Wind-Zero. [wind-zero.com] Yeah, look at that again - You have a racetrack, hotel, and an artillery range...a noisy, dirty Disneyland for law enforcement(artillery and helicopter noise pollution affecting vets who chose to retire in what they thought were gonna be quiet neighborhoods, and lea
      • by jimmydevice ( 699057 ) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @08:14PM (#36282866)
        Being in the middle of this high desert boom, I can say that most, if not all of the economic development brought into these areas are high on tech
        and low on jobs. Our area, Goldendale Wa., just up the river from the new google server farm, has bent over for a regional landfill,
        a gas fired turbine juice plant and windmills (1000's), The jobs created were security and maintenance.
        One shining success, The cattle ranchers that had crappy land got rich leasing to the windmill operators.
        One stated, " I can afford to ranch again"
    • by zill ( 1690130 )

      Every engineer and technician that moves into that town will need housing, food, retail, education, financial services, utilities, health services, and thousands of other necessities. That mean more business for the local businesses and thus more employment.

      • by baomike ( 143457 )

        good luck at finding most of those in Prineville.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Yes bringing 100 people into an existing population of 10,000 will create at least 500 er 50 er 5 er a couple of jobs er shifts.
      • well a lights out DC which is what these are don't have that many employees - I did the sums and reckoned a Google one could probably have only 20 or so Full time employees plus some local minimum wage security guards.
    • by hal2814 ( 725639 )
      The businesses are rarely concerned with giving jobs to the natives. They're far more concerned with talking employees into lower wages due to the lower cost of living and finding an area far enough away from peer-level jobs to make it hard for employees to leave once hired. (See Bentonville, Arkansas as an example).
      • by luke923 ( 778953 )

        That's not an issue in Bentonville, since it's about three hours from Kansas City and about half that to Tulsa -- not to mention nearby Fayetteville, which is about fifteen minutes. Granted, there's not much that's not related to Wal-Mart in Bentonville, but it's not that hard to go outside it.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        We're talking about data centers. So it's not even about giving/creating jobs at all. It's about reducing jobs.

        That's the whole idea of automation - cut costs. The computers do most of the work, and you only need a very few to do what the computers can't.

        There will be some initial jobs when setting stuff up, even then if there's no airconditioning there won't be "installing and maintaining air conditioning" related jobs either.

        The workers making the servers are in places like China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brazil
    • As someone living in the area, I can report that you're pretty much on the ball. The Prineville FB data center employs 35 people, but the tech jobs were all filled out of area. The lower grade jobs were filled locally. The days of tech staff on site seem to be gone. When I was operations manager at one of the largest DC's in Europe, most had a large staff of Networking, Unix, Windows, database and operations experts on site 24x7x365. Nowadays, most of the work is done remotely. The impact on local employmen
      • by Bug-Y2K ( 126658 )

        "The Prineville FB data center employs 35 people, but the tech jobs were all filled out of area"

        Wrong, and wrong again. Just because you live nearby doesn't mean you have a clue what is going on inside. More than half the full-time tech jobs have been filled locally.

        Additionally the site has been under construction for over a year and a half employing hundreds of people, both locally and from all over the Pacific Northwest. All those folks have been spending their money in Crook County, hotels, restaurants,

    • by Bug-Y2K ( 126658 )

      You are wrong. They will, and they do.

      Datacenter work is the "blue collar" end of the IT spectrum. With the right toolset in place, anyone can be trained to do it.

    • by MostAwesomeDude ( 980382 ) on Monday May 30, 2011 @01:37PM (#36288486) Homepage

      Disclosure: I work for the Oregon State University Open Source Lab, which recently received donations from Facebook.

      I've been out to this datacenter. They employed quite a number of locals to build the place, and although the skeleton crew is only 35, they plan to keep a bigger crew of hundreds out there most of the time. In the medium term, they plan to build *two* more buildings the size of their current one, extending their current need for construction for another two years or so, and requiring a reasonably-sized group of engineers to live in the Prineville area for a while. So Facebook's put money, jobs, and consumers into Prineville, and apparently, according to the locals, this was a real lifesaver for many of the construction workers who were otherwise broke and unemployed.

      I'm not a fan of Facebook, but this doesn't really seem like a horrible corporate exploitation.

  • Tiny Town? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @06:41PM (#36282366)

    You mean this Tiny Town? [amazon.com]

  • Interesting place. It's at the confluence of two rather steep rivers. I imagine there's a decent amount of hydroelectric available. Very much a small town. There was an attendant at the gas station. I remember seeing lots of well-maintained public infrastructure. The whole place had sort of a creepy Stepford Wives feel. 17% unemployment makes me wonder what the deal is.

    • Re:I've been there (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sqrt(2) ( 786011 ) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @07:00PM (#36282466) Journal

      17% is probably just accurate reporting of the unemployment rate, unlike how the federal government under-reports by about half using tricks like not counting people who are no longer looking for work. When you hear unemployment numbers from the government, a good rule of thumb is to double it to get the actual percentage of the workforce that wants to work but can't find a job.

    • That's not just Prineville. All gas in Oregon must be pumped by an attendant. It's illegal to do it yourself.

      • by Luckyo ( 1726890 )

        Just out of interest, why? The law sounds a bit strange, probably an old law based on some safety measure of the time?

        • by Osty ( 16825 )

          Just out of interest, why? The law sounds a bit strange, probably an old law based on some safety measure of the time?

          It's a political job-making law. Everybody needs gas. If you can't pump your own gas, jobs must be created to hire someone to pump it for you. If you want to run a 24/7 gas station, that means you have to hire several gas pumpers to cover all shifts, have multiple pumpers on hand during heavy usage hours. Each gas station could probably generate 5-6 extra jobs, which could mean thousands

          • Yes, it is a job making law. No question.

            As for no value added, do you live in Oregon? It rains A LOT. And when it's like 45 and soupy rain, getting colder, it's absolutely great to pull up, stuff a 20 out the window, and get your gas pumped, easy cheezy.

            I know my regular gas guy. We have a running conversation over the years, kids, family, politics, you name it. There is a lot of value there too.

            As for prices? It's a few pennies most of the time, and sometimes it's less here than it is in Washington.

            There, it's all pre-pay, barren stations, often dirty, crime laden, with some dude in what I can only characterize as the smallest possible workspace, barking at you through some shitty PA.

            Of course, one can go to the nicer stations, where they figure out new and interesting ways to get you inside to buy stuff...

            So the value is debatable, clearly. No question. But, let's be clear. It's not a significant price difference. I've lived here a long time, and the cost of gas relative to the "do it yourself" states has never been significant enough to warrant giving up the option of just staying in the car on a shitty day.

            • "As for no value added, do you live in Oregon? It rains A LOT." I live in Oregon. I actually live about 15 miles from Prineville. There's a reason it's called the "high desert". I think you're confusing us with the valley.
              • Totally. It does apply in the north west far more than it does your area. I have family there, and must say the very cold winter isn't a bad time to just stay in the car...

            • it's absolutely great to pull up, stuff a 20 out the window, and get your gas pumped, easy cheezy.

              $20?! You must be driving one o' them newfangled, half battery cars. Or is that what you tip the attendant? :)

              I always thought it would be cool to have the option when it's awful out. I guess it's not practical to make it optional though because I haven't seen a full service station since I was about 10 years old, in another state.

              • Nope! Just a old 89 corolla that gets about 40 MPG. Won't ever get rid of the thing. It's too cheap, and too easy to repair.

          • Gas isn't any more expensive in Portland than it is across the Columbia River in Vancouver. I can't see that it costs us any more than pump your own, at least the difference isn't enough for me to worry about.

            The issue was on a ballot measure a while back and the voters of the state soundly rejected allowing pump-your-own gas. (1982 - Measure 4 - the yes votes were only 42.5% of the ballots cast.)

        • NJ does it too. When I was 17, I got a gas pump handle yanked out of my car and hand because I accidentally tried to pump it myself.

          Whatever the reason, it must be grave. NJ/OR gasoline must be ten times as volatile or the pumps must run on static electricity. It seemed to be a capital offense.

          In the end, I think it was a safety issue. Old gas pumps didn't stop at the top of the tank. Even modern ones don't. I was recently on vacation in Florida and dumped a good 5 gallons because the station had left its p

          • They have expiration dates for pump handles?

            Sure, I guess stuff has to be inspected, but that's to verify it's still working, not that it'll stop even working in exactly 365 days.

      • If you have a vintage car, motorcycle or an exotic you can pump the fuel yourself, you won't be fined nor will the gas station.

        The law is that there can be no self service gas station, there always has to be an attendant.

        Its the same in New Jersey.

      • How do they afford it? My local petrol station in a surburban area has eight pumps and one employee working at any time. There's no way they could afford eight workers to stand there all day.

        Or imagine that a few cars turn up during a quiet period when there's only one attendent, you'd be waiting for ages.

        As far as job-creation schemes go it's pretty dumb. May as well pay people to dig holes and fill them in again.

    • What two steep rivers? The Crooked River and Ochoco Creek? There's not enough water between the two of them to power the data center. Most of the hydro-power in the northwest comes from the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.

      Prineville is a redneck place. I should know, I have cousins that grew up in the vicinity. The lumber mill shutting down and Les Schwab Tires moving their headquarters from Prineville to Bend doesn't help the unemployment situation. It's mainly a ranching and lumbering area tha

    • by baomike ( 143457 )

      No hydro locally. There is a hydro project down stream where the Crooked, Deschutes and Metolious river join. Water around Prineville is for irrigation.
      Even the small dam upstream might have problems. It was built using a method that is now considered suspect.
      Electric power in the region come from the Columbia via BPA (Bonneville Power Administration).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A small town that hosts server farms for Facebook.

    They should rename it "Farmville."

  • You'd think that a town of 10'000 would have 10'000 things to do. What the hell? Did a town of 10'000 persons choose to outsource everything? It's not easy to grow food for 10'000. You'd think a movie theatre, a lemonade stand, a hotdog stand, and a community ball-park would be able to employ just about everyone.

    • Well, as it turns out, every year we are able to do a whole lot of things more efficiently with fewer workers which means more people are competing for the remaining jobs.

      Of course, as a society we are also counteracting this in various ways but we're still unlikely to ever return to the "golden days" of the years between just after WW2 up to somewhere around the early to mid-70s when a single person could support an entire family's middle-class lifestyle and jobs were not just plentiful but as my dad put i

      • have you guys thought about building a street? Growing, expanding, exporting something, specializing in something that outsiders would contract from you? It just kills me to think that a small town would have such a huge problem.

        • Goldendale has an industrial park, It's occupied by the vacant France snowboard factory and a mint oil blending facility.
          That is it, nothing else in over 10 years. Since the aluminum smelter shutdown, It's slowly turning into a ghost town.
    • by baomike ( 143457 )

      People don't stay. Those that can often leave. It may not be as pretty but you can find a job in Portland a
      lot easier.

      • sotp looking for a job! start a business. think of all of the employees available to you.

        • I have a business here. I need to employ a couple of decent network and server techs. Nothing fancy. Just need to know some basic networking stuff and how to maintain a mail server, read logs, do basic troubleshooting, etc. After a month of looking, forget about it. The few people in the area with those skills are snapped up. The reason you can't pump your own gas here is pretty obvious; most of the population here can't do anything more complicated. I have friends who operated stores that they had to close
          • see, now that's what I wanted to hear. And more to your point, your comment was moderated down. The solution to the entire problem was moderated down. So I believe you when you say that they worth hiring.

  • So... (Score:4, Funny)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @07:12PM (#36282544) Journal
    Do all packets have to be routed through it five times a day?
  • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Sunday May 29, 2011 @07:14PM (#36282550) Homepage Journal

    While the cool air may be better for cooling the data enters, surely it would make even better sense to pipe that excess heat to local buildings. On the one hand the datacenter would be saving on heating costs and on the other hand the local buildings would save on heating costs.

    The problem we have today is all too often buildings are seen as individual entities, instead of something that needs to fit into the local environment.

    • The excess heat will be used to heat the office space, according to http://opencompute.org/ [opencompute.org].

      The problem is that the heat generated by DCs is pretty low energy and pressure. You can't heat much up with it or travel it very far before you lose it all in transmission inefficiencies.
  • Town better start writing some zoning regulation laws. The very thing the fresh air is attracting will attract more things which will attract more things which will take the fresh air away. That's not even considering the potential of the then thriving server farm industry driven economy tanking if those server farms pull out to go to fresher air, causing a cascading effect of failing businesses and massive job losses..... But then again I'm one of those "worst case scenario" kind of persons.

    • by c0lo ( 1497653 )

      But then again I'm one of those "worst case scenario" kind of persons.

      LOL... I can infer a case of not enough "stupid movies weekends"
      What about "thermal plumes causing mesosphere to fall in chunks" and category 7 [wikipedia.org] storms?

    • I laughed at your comment. Oregon already has pretty strict zoning regulations but Prineville is far enough off the beaten path that they have difficulty attracting business. Facebook was attracted by the cheap land and electricity rates. Before they developed that industrial park up on the rimrock it was just sage brush and juniper scrub.

    • Not to worry, The server farms supply little but tax revenues, The locals won't notice and the elected officials will move on to their next mark.
  • Back in the 70's, I lived in Bend, Oregon. I played in a country band (there wasn't hardly any other kind there), and we had a (very) funky gig in Prineville, highlighted by a scene I remember vividly still. An extremely large individual, dressed in flannel and overalls and looking and smelling thoroughly unwashed, came up to the stage and said, "Y'all know Home on the Range?" We tried to explain politely that it wasn't in our set list. After a little back and forth on the subject, he said, "Y'all play Hom
    • Sounds exactly like the Prineville I know. Back in the late 1960's a long haired hippie type came to town and was given a haircut (against his will) by the locals. My cousin was one of them.

  • A town of 10,000 people is not tiny.
  • Wherever a rural area houses the big pipes running through it, a Data Center will likely pop up. Especially when Hydroelectric power, Wind and Solar are prevalent.
    • 60% of the energy for the FB data center is from coal fired sources. Very little of the electricity in central Oregon is from "green" sources. If anything, geo-thermal energy is what they should be looking at here. The area is still very active.
      • Where did you get that bullshit? Citations?
        What? From all national datacenters?
        BTW, I live here.
      • Making up stats is fun, I guess, but Oregon has it's energy production made up in the following manner:

        Coal: 39%
        Hydro: 38%
        Natural Gas: 15%
        Biomass: 3%
        Wind and Geo: 1%

        (source: http://www.oregon.gov/ENERGY/CONS/docs/EnergyUseOR.pdf [oregon.gov] )

        Also, you might try to make the point that the single coal-burning generation station is in Boardman, OR; which is ~100 miles from Prineville. However, you'll see from this map [eia.gov] that Prineville is right next to a natural gas hub, and two hydro generating stations on the Deschu

  • That's what is done in Helsinki. Actually data processing can be very economical and green. If the waste heat generated from process will be used for something useful.
    As it's being done here: http://www.greendiary.com/entry/helsinki-data-centre-installed-in-cathedral-bomb-shelter-to-heat-500-homes/ [greendiary.com]
    It's just logical to use waste heat from any other sources (like industry processes) is being re-used in similar way.
  • These types of places make a lot of sense. Google also has a datacenter in The Dalles, Oregon. This is because of great access to electricity, bandwidth and local labor. Not to mention these towns often welcome these companies with open arms by giving them tax breaks and allowing them to build with minimal interference. Not to mention cheap land prices. If they tried to build this same facility in Hillsboro, Oregon (where the majority of Intel campuses are located as well as other tech companies) they would
    • You know there's a problem when the big names in the business target minor towns to take advantage of their resources.

      Of course these small places make sense to a crowded market

      This move doesn't surprise anybody.

    • The Columbia River Gorge used to be home to several very large aluminum Smelters because of the cheap, abundant power. However, over the last 20 years, most of them have closed down and moved overseas. So there is a ton of power going to some of those small towns that used to have smelters. Thats part of what made the Dalles so Ideal.. Massive amounts of power, a large river right next door (hello heat sink) and lots of fiber. (most fiber to asia actualy goes out through Oregon, because of the slope of

  • First any engineer they try to hire may just balk at having to live in such a small town. There are far bigger metro areas with good rates for electricity in the intermountain west that can provide 80% air cooling a year. Colorado Springs comes to mind where Walmart is considering building a Datacenter, and Verizon Wireless, Fedex, HP, and a few others already have facilities there as well, the cost of living is much cheaper compared to silicon valley or New York. I sure hope for their sake this small to

    • Prineville is about 3.5 hours from Portland in the summer. In the winter, it can be a lot longer. You need to cross the Cascade range. Central Oregon can be very, very isolated. We have one small airport in Redmond. Add at least $100 onto what you would pay for an airfare anywhere else. The largest town is Bend which has a population of around 80,000. Bend falls into the "nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there" category.
      • by Wolvey ( 918106 )

        Bend falls into the "nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there" category.

        Some people prefer the cool mountain air and plentiful outdoor activities over a crowded city. If you've lived there all your life you may yearn for a change but for me coming from a big city to Bend has been a breath of fresh air. Maybe you're just doing your part in keeping it a smaller city... if that's the case then I agree, you don't want to live there.

      • Bend falls into the "nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to live there" category.

        I don't think that's really fair. Having just moved to Bend from The Dalles, the size of the town has been a real improvement in service/shops: Target, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, etc. Lots more stuff to do, and better for the kids. It's no Portland, but it's a pretty decent place to raise a family. And I'm happy to have more than 3 places to eat at.

        I'm surprised you say that, actually, since you apparently live i

    • First any engineer they try to hire may just balk at having to live in such a small town.

      Data Center techs that want to work for companies with 100K+ sq foot footprints are getting used to living in remote areas. Especially in Oregon, which combines low power cost, large inexpensive acreage, temperate-to-cool dry climate (on the E side of the mountains), no sales tax(!), good network pipes, and low latency to California. Also Trans-Pacific network connections in Portland. cf Quincy, The Dalles. Those
  • Serverfarmville.

  • Replace the car industry with the IT industry with these data centers and we are talking awesomeness!
    It is amazing for these people to now be able to draw some more economic help from the big companies!

  • So, we get this story about servers being cooled by "fresh air" at the same time the same data center is being derided for pulling most of its energy from coal-fired plants. (http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/17/youre-so-coal-trying-to-shame-facebook/)

    I'm not saying Facebook is evil here, but this story looks like a PR plant do downplay the environmental concerns here.

  • So putting data centers there will create hundreds of no-experience-required jobs for local people? Or will the DCs simply be large buildings with a skeleton staff which neither employ locals nor create much additional local demand for human-attended resources?

    Perhaps they're talking about additional employment during construction, rather than long-term?

  • Google's smart.

    Middle of nowhere, but close to Bend, OR which underwent a real estate boom and bust. So I'm imagining real estate is dirt cheap. Lot's of outdoor sports, breweries, and boutique shops in Bend, so Googlers or Googlites or Googlies will have a place to romp. Not to mention the weed is fantastic from Eugene...

    As well, this the east side of the Cascades, so there are many microclimates ranging from high desert to rain forest to lush valleys. Night time is always frigid. Lots of wind power a

It's fabulous! We haven't seen anything like it in the last half an hour! -- Macy's